White Bird: A Wonder Story

Written by R. J. Palacio
Review by John Kachuba

From the author of Wonder comes this moving and inspirational graphic novel—the author’s first foray into this genre—about the Holocaust. The story begins with Julian, whom many readers will remember as the bully in Wonder, receiving a lesson in kindness from his grandmother, Sara. Her simple words take on deeper meaning as she reveals to Julian the story of how she and her Jewish family living in Paris became hunted by the Nazis during the German occupation of France in World War II.

One day, while Sara is at school, soldiers come to round up Jewish children. Sara hides with the aid of a disabled student named Julien, who takes her to his family’s home. There, she spends the next few years hidden from the Nazis, relying entirely on the kindness of strangers for her survival.

Unlike many young adult novels about the Holocaust, the focus of White Bird is upon one person and her thoughts and fears as she lives a life cut off from family and society at large, her entire world drawn down to Julien and his parents. As a result, the Nazi reign of terror being unleashed on Jews and other “undesirables,” including persons with disabilities like Julien, who suffers from polio, is presented mostly at a distance which in some ways, makes it all the more terrifying.

This is a story about bravery and heroism. It’s a story about good people standing up for the right thing and teaches a valuable lesson to young readers. That lesson remains relevant in a world where families are still torn apart, incarcerated, and deported. This is a wonderful story with beautiful illustrations and a wealth of additional resources at the back to help readers learn more about the time period. It is an important read and highly recommended.