Palacio (pen name for writer Raquel Jaramillo) knows the
exact moment she realized writing was in her future. As
an assignment in her seventh grade English class,
Palacio wrote a paper called "Time and the
vividly recalls how the teacher read the paper to the
class and then asked the students to guess the author.
Everyone knew it was Palacio. She doesn’t know how the
class knew but the fact they did stuck with her. Add in
how her mother told her all her life she would have a
career putting together words and the writing was on the
have been a closet writer my entire life," Palacio
says. "In fact, there were two things I was kind of
good at and thought I could make a living doing them.
For some reason I could draw. I was always the class
artist. I was always told I was good with words."
was not convinced enough about the writing praise to
gamble on making a living as an author, and in college
she opted to focus on graphic design. That was the start
of a long road for Palacio that included a career as an
art director, work as a book jacket designer and years
as a book editor. Eventually the path she started in the
late ’70s with a school assignment (and numerous
unfinished novels) brought her to write the New York
Times best-seller "Wonder" (Knopf Books for
Young Readers, $16.99).
story about a young boy with a facial birth defect
trying to navigate middle school has been turned into a
feature film of the same name starring Julia Roberts and
Owen Wilson that opens wide Nov. 17.
the time the idea for ‘Wonder’ sprung up on me, I
was in a condition in that point of my life to really
know what I was doing and start writing," Palacio
idea for the award-winning Wonder started with a trip to
the ice cream store with her two sons. While waiting in
line, Palacio noticed a girl with facial birth defects.
Out of concern her 3-year-old son would see the girl and
start crying, Palacio tried to leave the store, but that
only made matters worse. The writer’s concerns weren’t
about her son’s reaction.
reaction was to protect the little girl. I knew the
moment my son saw he would start to cry and that is
exactly what happened. My big fear was she would see him
reacting to her face," Palacio says. "I
whisked him away and later regretted doing that. I was
worried that from her point of view it might have looked
like I was trying to shield my son."
incident touched Palacio deeply and sparked the idea for
"Wonder." The book not only deals with how
children look at those who are difference in appearance,
but at how adults deal with such situations. Palacio
also reveals through other characters that while the
main character of Auggie can’t conceal his
differences, all of the other characters are dealing
with their own situations that make them different.
says showing how everyone has differences was something
purposely done because she wrote the book with children
wanted to show them that everyone has a story to
tell," Palacio says. "We all have things about
us that we wish we could change or we consider as
burdens. In fact, our differences are what unites us
all. We all have those things in common if we just look
for them a little more. That was the message I wanted to
truth is I wrote it for kids, but I never wanted to talk
down to them. I think one of the reasons so many people
— adults and children — can read it is that writing
for kids is no different than writing for adults. The
only concession I made was to write in shorter
her ideas come to life in the film has been an unusual
experience for the author. She found the way filmmakers
created the look for Auggie to be different from what
she had envisioned while writing the book. But, Palacio
knows that even those who have read her books have seen
their version of Auggie in their minds’ eyes. The only
thing that couldn’t change in creating the film was
that it remain true to the idea Auggie is a 10-year-old
boy who doesn’t look like other 10-year-old boys.
quite excited about the casting of Roberts and Wilson to
play Auggie’s parents as they are based on Palacio and
us. My husband is a very funny guy. I had only seen Owen
in funny movies and I never expected him to turn in such
a heartbreaking performance. When the funny guy cries,
that gets you. It’s like a punch in the gut,"
Palacio says. "To see Julia Roberts, it’s crazy
because she is so amazing. Every emotion I wrote
flickers across her face."
her career got started with "Wonder," a winner
of the Mark Twain Award plus numerous other honors,
Palacio has continued to write. Her other books include
"365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of
Precepts" and "Auggie & Me: Three Wonder