By Morgan Smith
When Matthews Elementary School fourth-grader Ayah Zoabi drew pictures of characters from the book “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio, she was just trying to put faces to names of beloved characters in the book her class had been discussing.
But when her teacher Carol Jackson had the idea to wrap up the book discussions by letting the author know her students’ feelings toward the book, Ayah’s illustrations caught the eye of the book’s publishers. Officials called last week to let Jackson know one of Ayah’s drawings will be published in a special edition of the book to be released this summer.
“I was really excited and at first, I didn’t really know what was happening. I thought maybe Ms. Jackson had made a mistake because another girl in the class is way better at drawing than me,” Ayah said of the honor. “But I really like drawing, especially because when my teacher is reading, I like to draw the characters to get a better visual of what they look like.”
Jackson’s class started reading the book last fall, and wrote letters and drew pictures for the author around October. Jackson said she mailed the kids’ work to Random House Publishing in New York, though she didn’t expect to hear anything back.
The book focuses on a boy who has a severe facial deformity, Jackson said, and throughout its pages, highlights different aspects of bullying.
Bullying is a buzzword right now at many schools, Jackson said.
“One thing my students really loved about it was that all of them could relate to some character in the book, whether it was a caring person or someone who even is being mean. Every chapter we read, just opened up new
Ayah had been carrying around the book for months after borrowing it from Jackson, who said having Ayah’s illustrations published is a perfect match since Ayah loved the book so much.
“I like the book ‘Wonder’ because it really taught me that you shouldn’t judge a person by their face, but by their feelings and their thoughts,” Ayah said. “It was a very touching story.”
A special edition of “Wonder” will be released this summer. Ayah’s illustration will be published along with numerous other works from students nationwide. The book will not print Ayah’s name, but will recognize Matthews Elementary School.