Book Review: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Released September 13, 2011.

This second book, following his award-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is just as magnificent and haunting.  Here there are two stories, set 50 years apart.  In 1977, Ben has grown up along the shores of Gunflint Lake, Minnesota.  His dreams are filled with wolves chasing him, but he doesn’t know why.  His mother recently died and when he goes back to their home, a freak accident causes him to lose his hearing.  But just before the accident, he uncovers what may be a clue to his father’s identity.  The picture section of the book is the story of Rose in 1927.  She is deaf and refuses to be cooped up in her house and protected.  She has built a city of paper around her room and manages to sneak away to New York City.  As both children are drawn to New York, their stories come closer together and eventually become one.

Selznick has once again created a story that only he could tell.  His illustrations, done in line drawings, read cinematically, visually telling part of the story.  Here they perfectly capture deafness, offering readers a way of “reading” a book in pure silence without words.  It is a beautiful experience that is tangible and breathtaking.

Selznick takes readers on a journey here, because of the intertwining nature of the book, they must place themselves in his hands and simply trust.  Their trust will be rewarded as the stories come together with a click as the pieces meet.

The story also brings together divergent subjects into a whole.  The combination of the history of museums, silent film changing to sound, Deaf culture, and families would seem to be too many themes for any book to contain.  In Selznick’s hands, they are all ingredients in a satisfying recipe, each one adding flavor and depth that is uniquely theirs but none of them overwhelming the others.  It is a dance of balance that Selznick achieves effortlessly.

Highly recommended, this is a book that all fans of Hugo Cabret will want to get their hands on.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

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