The minute I spotted the song lyrics on the first page of this book, I knew it would be an amazing read.
Natalie Merchant's song tells of a child with disabilities who is, nevertheless, "one of the wonders of God's own creation." I have loved this song since it was released in the 1990s, not least because of the beautiful voice of its singer.
I hadn't heard the song in well over a decade, and reading the lyrics after so long made me realise that this song was written for Little A, and all others like him all over the world. Hearing it again brought tears to my eyes, as did reading RJ Palacio's wonderful first novel.
The book, while it does not deal with autism, is the story of a child who is different and who has spent, and will spend, the rest of his life trying to fit in and longing for true friends who will see beyond his differences to accept him for the person he is inside.
I would be lying if I said this wasn't my most fervent dream for my own son. He does not yet have a single real friend (the Au Pair and family don't technically count), and while he tries to interact with them, most children his age are very aware that he is different, and do not have the patience to cultivate a relationship. Little A, for his part, still does not sustain interest in other children for their own sakes, beyond perhaps a shared activity they both enjoy.
Still, I know this will always be a primary area of concern, and I know that as he grows older and more aware, Little A too will want someone to call a friend.
I loved this book, and do not hesitate to encourage readers of all ages to pick it up. Even if I wasn't the mother of a special needs child, I would appreciate the beauty of this novel. My godchildren of teen-age don't know it yet, but this book is what they'll be receiving from my family this Christmas.