Nov 15, 2011

Review - Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
September 13th, 2011 from Scholastic

Set fifty years apart, two independent stories—Ben's told in words and 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.

Ever since his mom died, Ben feels lost.
At home with her father, Rose feels alone.

He is searching for someone, but he is not sure who.
She is searching for something, but she is not sure what.

When Ben finds a mysterious clue hidden in his mom's room,
When a tempting opportunity presents itself to Rose.

Both children risk everything to find what's missing

The synopsis says it all - two kids, fifty years apart (1927 and 1977), are searching for someone or something until both stories come together. Selznick is a gifted storyteller and this story is my favorite of his so far. I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret several years ago and I was blown away with his daring use of sketches. At first, I had a hard time believing a kid would want to read a 500+ page book, but boy was I wrong! I recommended that book a hundred times and was happy to see my own daughter pick it up one day.

Wonderstruck is in the same style as Hugo. Beautiful, full-page, black and white sketches tell the story of a young girl named Rose. The written story is that of Ben's, a boy who is deaf in one ear and suffering the loss of his mother. Each point of view is captivating and each is a mystery waiting to be unraveled. Who is this girl and why does she sneak out of her window at night? Who is the picture of the man in a locket Ben's mother kept? Set against the backdrop of the World's Fair and the amazing American Museum of Natural History, both in New York City, each story unfolds and their timelines come together during the blackout in 1977.

The illustrations are what make this book exceptional - and what makes this a top contender for the Caldecott Medal (Hugo won in 2008). Some of the pencil drawings go from a close up view and then pan out over the series of a few pages. Or, they do the opposite. The eyes of a wolf, a postcard, and a model of Manhattan and the five boroughs all have a sequence of pages. They help build the suspense or force the reader to take better notes on where the story is going. Genius.

Wonderstruck is perfect for anyone at any age. Children will be mesmerized by the illustrations and the fun in solving a mystery. Adults will reminisce about the past and enjoy talking with their kids about a time when the world moved just a little bit slower. The mystery and illustrated story line make this a perfect read aloud. I can't recommend this one enough and it goes down as one of my favorites of 2011.

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You can find Selznick at his website