Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey. Read more...
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Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.
Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.
Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.
- ISBN-13: 9780545027892
- ISBN-10: 0545027896
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publish Date: September 2011
- Page Count: 608
- Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Series: Schneider Family Book Award - Middle School Winner
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-07-18
- Reviewer: Staff
Selznick follows his Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret with another illustrated novel that should cement his reputation as one of the most innovative storytellers at work today. Ben and Rose are both hearing-impaired. He is 12 in 1977; she is the same age 50 years earlier. Selznick tells their story in prose and pictures beginning with Ben, living (unhappily) with his aunt and uncle, 83 steps from the Minnesota lake cabin he shared with his librarian mother until her death in a car accident three months earlier. He has never met his father, but has reason to believe he may live in New York. As in Hugo Cabret, a significant part of the story is told in sequential illustrations, most of which depict the even unhappier Rose, whose movie star mother has remarried, leaving her daughter with her ex-husband in New Jersey. Both children run away to Manhattan seeking something from their respective absent parents. It takes several hundred pages and a big chunk of exposition to connect these two strands, but they converge in an emotionally satisfying way. Selznick masterfully uses pencil and paper like a camera, starting a sequence with a wide shot and zooming in on details on successive pages. Key scenes occur when the runaways find themselves in one of Manhattan's storied museums, and with one character named Jamie, and Rose's surname being Kincaid, it's impossible not to think of E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, to which Selznick tips his hat in an author's note. Like that Newbery winner, Selznick's story has the makings of a kid-pleasing classic. Ages 9–up. (Sept.)
Two stories in search of wonder
The 2008 Caldecott Committee made a bold decision in selecting Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret as its Medal winner. A 544-page novel as best picture book? It did have 158 illustrations central to the telling of the story, and the committee decided it was a new form of picture book.
Now, Selznick is back with Wonderstruck, an even bigger novel. As in Hugo Cabret, artwork tells much of the story, two independent threads of visual and prose narrative weaving in and out, eventually coming together as the protagonists meet and their stories join. Young Ben’s prose narrative begins in 1977, at Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, and young Rose’s visual narrative begins in 1927, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Both characters yearn for a better life, trying to find their places in the world. Ben’s mother has died, and his journey takes him to New York City in search of the father he never knew. Rose is deaf and her parents are protective, but she, too, is lured by the big city.
Selznick’s pencil drawings perfectly capture Rose’s heartbreakingly earnest expressions, and a full-page spread evokes in careful detail the “cabinets of wonders,” early museum displays of objects that evoke the wonders of the world. By the end of the novel, Ben wonders if we’re not all collectors of objects, moments and experiences, “making our own cabinet of wonders” during our lives. This becomes the novel’s theme: being open to the wonders of the world.
Not everyone is open to being wonderstruck, but Ben and Rose are; as they say (in a line borrowed from Oscar Wilde), “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”