“Choosing kind is here to stay” is the message R.J. Palacio shared with our ASH community when she visited our campus last Friday. She shared reflections on the success of her first book Wonder, as part of her talk and also spoke about her new graphic novel, White Bird. This message of embracing kindness is one that is embedded throughout both of her literary works and is why Palacio’s works have had such an extensive global reach.
This author’s visit was a very special moment for our community, as it was Palacio’s only stop in the Netherlands on her European tour and the theater was filled to listen to her speak. She began by explaining her own real-life experience, which inspired her bestseller Wonder, a story of a boy with a severe facial difference. The book emphasizes that while each of us is born with differences, some are born with those more prominent than others and it is our kindness to each other that creates acceptance, both with oneself and of those around us.
White Bird, Palacio’s new graphic novel, continues on this same path, through a much different context and narrative. Palacio sets this tale in occupied France during World War Two, in efforts to connect younger readers with the subject of the Holocaust - a subject manner many in younger generations know very little about. Palacio was impressed that our middle school social studies curriculum includes this crucial part of history.
She connected with everyone in the room and enjoyed a Q&A session with our ASH students who were in the audience and she confessed this is always her favorite part of any visit. This gave our students the opportunity to gain insight into the inner workings of the thoughts and processes of an accomplished writer. She was incredibly generous with her time and after speaking in the theater, hosted a book signing session, giving students a chance to share a unique moment with a writer they truly admire - a once in a lifetime experience.
Long after the last book was signed or free poster rolled up to be taken home, her message of kindness echoed in the hallways, connecting with each person who heard her speak in its own special way. Palacio emphasized that our learning environment at ASH is exceptional and we have a daily chance to practice kindness with everyone around us, something we should not take for granted in our current environment.