Review Blog

Jan 01 2015

365 Days of Wonder: Mr Browne's Book of Precepts by R.J. Palacio

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Corgi, 2014. ISBN 9780552572712
In his masterpiece Wonder, the must-read book for everyone from Year 4 onwards, we were introduced to Augie Pullman and his remarkable English teacher Mr Browne who helped him overcome all the obstacles that a seriously-deformed child entering school after years of home-schooling could expect. Guiding his students through their essay-writing, Mr Browne shares precepts - inspirational sayings that stretch beyond the essay to life in general - which help to change not only Augie's thinking but those of his classmates.
Based on the belief that we should 'Teach him then the sayings of the past, so that he may become a good example for the children . . . no one is born wise' (The Maxims of Ptahhotep, 2200BC) it seems very appropriate that on January 1, 2015 I begin my reviews by reviewing this wonderful book which has something for everyone for every day of the year. Filled with thoughts ranging from contributors as diverse as Gandhi and Harry Styles, Milton and Carl Sandberg it is such a positive guide. Many of the contributions have come from children who sent their thoughts to Palacio and their insight and wisdom remind me of a poem written by my Years 4, 5, and 6 classes as the old century bowed out and the new one ticked over. Based on John Marsden's book of the same name, it is as relevant on the first day of 2015 as it was on the first day of 2000.
A Prayer for the 21st Century

May we all have a safe journey

And may our journeys take us to where we want to go.

May we be forgiven for the wrong turns we have taken.

May we all have a place in our hearts for each other.

May those who live in darkness, find their way into the sun.

May the blind be able to see, the deaf be able to hear,

And those who can't walk, run.

May our earth stay beautiful, the seas filled with fish, the gardens filled with flowers and the sky filled with sunlight.

May the pins stay in the grenades.

May the guns remain unused.

May the bombs stay unexploded.

May the wars end.

May the unlucky have some luck

And the lucky realise the luck they have,

May everyone's nightmares end.

May everyone's dreams come true.

May we all share the joy of loving and living.

May every thought be free, every problem solved.

May the worst turn out to be good.

May there be lots of fun and laughter, especially for the children.

May friendship be plentiful.

May we all think of others before we think of ourselves.

May we all live with knowledge, understanding, respect, tolerance and harmony.

May we all share the joy and love of our family and friends.

May we be not forgotten and may we not forget others.

May the angels not lift us up early.

May the world live on in peace forever.

Beginning with an introduction about his collection of precepts, Mr Browne offers the one that stopped him in his tracks as the thought for today, January 1. 'We carry within us the wonders we seek around us'. How wonderful for us as teachers and teacher librarians to be in a position to help so many children understand that everything comes from within, they can make their own dreams come true and realise their potential. To have such influence is a privilege and a gift.
Every day our social media feeds are bombarded by memes with words of wisdom - here is a collected volume of them that we can have on our desks and on our classroom walls. As contributor Clare says, 'Your life is your story. Go write it.'
Barbara Braxton

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