What a thrill to attend the launch of White Bird, a visionary children’s graphic novel! Hosted by Watchung Booksellers, my fabulous local indie, the event was packed with kids, parents, and other admirers of White Bird’s author, R. J Palacio. Beloved in the realm of children’s literature, she’s best known for Wonder, her debut novel, which became an instant bestseller and classic. To date, it’s sold 15 million copies worldwide and been translated into 50 languages.
What an inspiring success story! R. J. was working full time as a graphic designer in publishing and raising two children when she began penning Wonder. For a year-and-a half, the aspiring author would write from midnight until 3 A. M. and then get up a few hours later and go to work. Sparked by a real-life incident, Wonder is a heart-warming tale of compassion and friendship that’s given rise to a global “Choose Kindness” movement.
A full-time author for eight years now, R.J. Palacio wrote several more books in the “Wonder” series before drawing on her artistic talents to create White Bird, a graphic novel for 4th and 5th graders that tells the story of a young girl in a time of war. Her fictional tale was inspired, in part, by the true-life experience of her husband’s family in the Holocaust. Highlights of her wide-ranging talk:
On reading: “I love to read books. I do think that every writer starts off as a big reader. I love hearing stories – it’s my favorite thing in the world.”
On writing Wonder: “That was a very magical time for me – no one in the world had ever met any of the characters who were so real to me. Every night, I would go to their world.”
On White Bird’s theme: “I wanted to explore the idea of kindness in a time when choosing to be kind can be dangerous. It’s about friendship, kindness, and compassion. Humanity lost its soul for a while. The story itself did not happen, but everything around it did.”
On fiction writing: “There does come a point where you become so invested and your characters become so real, that they really take over the plot. You become a viewer — you become the first viewer.”
Bravo, R.J. Palacio! And now, inspired and emboldened, let’s all write on!
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