A Little Wonder for a Frantic Soul: Faye Hanson’s Picture Book “The Wonder”

Wonder is definitely something we lose as we get older. A quick Google search will tell you the definition of wonder is “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable”. But after I read The Wonder, which is written and wonderfully (pun intended) illustrated by Faye Hanson, the word “wonder” has spiralled into a complex living, breathing creature which harbours unfathomable potential under its layers of fur.

As university students, we often slip into autopilot – you forget the long-term purpose of your paper that’s due in three days (which you haven’t even started), or what the completion of another semester truly means for the future. We become zombies, living until the closest due date, unable to appreciate anything outside of the myriad of voices inside of our head screaming at us to remember this or that.

This picture book reminds us to force those voices into silence every once in a while, just so our senses – our sight, smell, hearing, and taste – can have the chance to shut down our autopilot. By doing this, we are really reclaiming our childhood sense of wonder that can see a million possibilities out of anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant or impossible. Does that crossing guard’s sign taste like ice cream? You betcha. Do polar bears blow up the stars like balloons? Well, of course! Are birds travelling to the circus when they fly so far away? Where else would they go?

The Wonder by Faye Hanson.

Whether you’re five, 15, 25, 35, or so on, we can all identify with the protagonist of this book. While he seems to be an unassuming little boy on a superficial level, he wields an uncontrollable imagination, which gets him in trouble when he forgets to pay attention. We’ve all heard someone scornfully utter, whether directed at you or someone else, “Stop daydreaming”. Maybe that’s why we have trouble imagining the future, or anything else outside of our own little bubble that’s about to burst from overthinking. “You shouldn’t imagine your life four years from now, and don’t even think about thinking about success; you can hope for it, sure, but as soon as you picture yourself happy, you’ll jinx it.”

As a result of these swirling voices, our current hard work and sleepless nights become meaningless, everything we do draining us as opposed to inspiring us and making us believe that we are one step closer to an elusive, but perfectly tangible, goal. We need to wonder to survive.

This leads to the lesson everybody can take away from this book: apply your wonder. If we can imagine something, we, as humans, have more than enough ability to make our faraway wonders a reality. And that’s exactly what the little boy in our story does. He is told to draw anything in his art class, and, when he is unsure at first, the teacher says, “Just use your imagination”.

This leads to the lesson everybody can take away from this book: apply your wonder. If we can imagine something, we, as humans, have more than enough ability to make our faraway wonders a reality.

This is exactly what he needs to hear throughout the entire story while he is being berated by his other teachers and various civilians for drifting off into a state of pure wonder, where every one of his senses sparks an idea that sees further than what the physical world has to offer. He draws birds flying off to a circus, polar bears blowing up stars, and a crossing guard’s sign that tastes like ice cream, a drawing that his teacher and parents praise, and they continue to support his further exploration of this newfound outlet for his wonder and passion.  

We sit here as students because at some point in our lives we wondered, “What if?” What if I can clean up the ocean? What if I can cure a disease? What if I can design a never-before-seen building that changes the world of architecture forever? What if the crossing guard’s sign really tastes like ice cream?

We don’t go to school for the sake of going to school; we want our wonder realized, and know we have to apply it bit by bit throughout our education to achieve the ‘what if’ that started our whole journey. At the end of the book, our little boy is all grown up, presenting his wonderful (pun intended, again) artistic masterpiece to a sold-out art gallery as his parents look ahead proudly. We all have somebody that supports us, but, in the end, it is up to us to maintain our sense of wonder and imagination that makes everything worthwhile.

So, if you ever find yourself trapped in an endless loop of due dates that shuts down all your senses and makes you lose sight of the future, just remember the little boy and his big sense of wonder. Or, remember this quote from Picasso that is featured within one of the illustrations in the book:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Be a child again.

And never, ever, stop daydreaming.

Keeley Seale is a first-year Arts student hoping to major in Creative Writing and minor in English Literature. When she’s not cramming to make a dent in her excessive Arts One reading list, she is either writing essays, short stories, or watching horror movies on her laptop with a cup of white hot chocolate. She also lives for bubble tea but cries every time at their prices.

Works Cited

Hanson, Faye. The Wonder. China: Templar Books, 2014. Print.

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