Residents looking for a good book to read might want to pick up Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, and read it along with the rest of the city.
The story is about August Pullman, who was born with a face different than most. The fictional character even says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
The novel follows August as he leaves a homeschool setting to go to school, where he hopes to be treated as an ordinary kid. But his new classmates can’t get past his unusual face.
The #1 New York Times bestseller begins from August’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, and others telling the story.
A group of city leaders has organized what they call “One City/One Story,” and it’s a community read project they say is similar to others that have taken place in other communities across the country.
The project asks every Milford resident, young and old, to read the same book and then attend one or more of the book related events that will be held locally throughout the spring.
Kathy Bonetti, spokesperson for the Milford Public Schools, and Christine Angeli, director of the Milford Library, are spearheading the project. They’ve pulled together business representatives and others to help get the project moving, including Barnes and Noble Bookstore, which will help get copies of the books into the hands of residents.
Wonder is actually a book for middle school age readers, but according to Angeli, “It has been adopted by many adult book groups because of its universal themes.”
Bonetti added, “The dialogue is very true to how middle schoolers talk to each other. It’s a real book.”
A companion picture book selection has been named for Milford's younger readers — The Invisible Boy, written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton.
The themes of the two books are similar, according to Bonetti and Angeli. The book tells the story of Brian. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game or birthday party until a new kid comes to class.
Bonetti said she and Angeli came up with the idea to organize a community read at about the same time. They were working together on a community project for the city’s 375th anniversary last year when they started talking about a community-wide book group.
They put the project together fairly quickly, and decided on Wonder in part because other community reads have used it, making it easier to get the project going quickly. Angeli said the book will be more readily available through other libraries, and the Milford Library will tap into those copies. The library has ordered 40 copies of the book and will be able to access many more through the statewide library book sharing program.
“There will always be a supply here,” Angeli said.
Residents can start reading now. There will be an official launch March 28 at the Milford Public Library, and after that there will be events throughout the community where people can gather to talk about the book or promote its themes of kindness and caring.
Bonetti said a kindness campaign will tie in with the community read. Local businesses that take part will get a supply of blue paper hearts — blue to match the Wonder book cover — and residents will be urged to write an act of kindness on the hearts, which will then be posted in the store’s window.
“We’re hoping the entire city will be plastered with these random acts of kindness,” Bonetti said.
The project highlights the continued collaboration of the City of Milford, the Milford Public Library, the Milford Arts Council, and the Milford Public Schools, Bonetti and Angeli said. If all goes well with this year's inaugural citywide reading event, the group is hoping to conduct the project annually.
A committee is working on the details of the many levels of programming that will take place throughout the spring. Bonetti said there is much planning and work to do — but the seeds have been planted already with the PTA and PTO groups in the city's schools.
Angeli also said several projects will occur involving senior citizens, members of the business community and residents. Some of these include an author visit and an open mic night at the Milford Arts Council.
The One City/One Story committee, made up of city and school representatives, members of the Friends of the Milford Library, other elected officials, and members of the business community are focused on the fundraising element at this point, Bonetti said.
The group estimates it will need $15,000 to run the various programs and events connected with this year's inaugural launch. A fundraising campaign is getting off the ground this week.
There will be a Facebook page, as well as a spot on the city's website to keep Milford residents aware of upcoming activities and events.