Wonder, R.J. Palacio’s 2012 debut novel about Auggie, a fifth-grade boy born with a facial deformity who’s attending mainstream school for the first time, made a critical and commercial splash. The novel received multiple starred reviews and spots on “best of” lists, has spent 108 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and has sold more than one million copies for Knopf. Palacio has written two companion books: 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts (Knopf, Aug.), which compiles principles to live by inspired by those the English teacher in Wonder offers his students as writing prompts, and an e-original released earlier this month, The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story, focusing on Wonder’s bullying antagonist.
The author reports that readers’ response to Mr. Browne’s penchant for precepts led to 365 Days of Wonder, which will have a 350,000-copy first printing. “I got such a tremendous amount of feedback from teachers, librarians, and parents, who really embraced the notion of Mr. Browne’s use of inspirational quotes,” Palacio says. “And I have bags and bags full of completely unsolicited, original precepts that readers sent me. So given that interest, I decided there was a book in this.”
Palacio augmented her pool of quotes for the book with a two-week Twitter contest last December, which garnered more than 1,200 precepts from fans. Seventy-five of those submissions are included in 365 Days of Wonder, which also features words of wisdom from such notables as Confucius, Anne Frank, and Nelson Mandela.
“I received so many quotes that really resonated with me,” says Palacio. “So many books of motivational or inspirational quotes have a certain snarkiness to them, since adults’ impressions of life can be jaded. The precepts in this book are very positive and emphasize the themes of kindness, strength of character, and doing good in the world—themes that parents want to impart to their children.”
In The Julian Chapter, Palacio sheds light on—and gives voice to—Auggie’s nemesis. “Julian was vilified by many readers of Wonder, and I wanted to explore his backstory in a parallel narrative that definitely intersects with Wonder’s story,” she notes. “We definitely get to know Julian a lot better. I think it’s very important to figure out what motivates bullies to act the way they do. With understanding comes compassion.”
Palacio has attended BEA—né ABA—for 25 years, in a variety of roles: first as creative director of Henry Holt, then as an editor at Workman, and now as both Workman’s editor-at-large and children’s author. “I literally have two badges, and will dash from pitching books at the Workman booth to signing at the Random House booth,” she says. “I love being on both ends of publishing and hanging out with all my publishing friends at BEA. I feel as though this is where I grew up.”
Booksellers and other fans will find Palacio signing blads of 365 Days of Wonder at the Random House booth (2839) this afternoon at 3 p.m.