by Brian Selznick
by Brian Selznick
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 13, 2011)
(I LOVED the experience of reading this book but my review is a bit more concise than it deserves because I'm writing this before work!)
Wonderstruck is an expansion of the genre-breaking novel/graphic novel form Brian Selznick beautifully invented with his last masterpiece, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. In two alternating stories, we follow Ben, a boy living in 1977 who is struck deaf by lightening shortly after his mother's death and immediately following a discovery he made about the identity of his unknown father. Clinging to the little clues he has, Ben sets out to find the mysterious man named Danny, leading him from his home in Gunflint, Lake Minnesota all the way to New York's Museum of Natural History. Simultaneously, we flash to Rose, a young deaf girl living in 1927, her story told through pictures rather than words. Both characters, though separated from one another through time, have obvious parallels in their respective journeys that link them in surprising and inspiring ways.
Selznick weaves together two seemingly disjointed story lines in an effortless and intuitive way. He paces the book perfectly, focusing on the most important events and moving quickly from one interesting moment to the next. The only fault I found (which overall is very minor) was int he exposition toward the end, when Rose's full story comes to light. I would have liked more showing and less telling, though I suppose it would have required many more images and brought the book to double its size.
Once again, the sheer scale of Selznick's undertaking is awe-inspiring. With well over 400 pages of drawings, Wonderstruck is truly a wonder to behold and to experience. Flipping through the drawn pages quickly mirrors an animated, cinematic effect that brings the story energy and drama. The moments he chooses to depict are emotive, intriguing, and poetic, and enigmatic. His use of lights and darks, hand drawn text, composition, detail, and pacing are beautifully handled. In all, a superb achievement in story telling worthy of the highest praises in children's literature.
This story is sweet, sad, hopeful, moving, and unique. It provides a much needed mainstream glimpse into deaf culture and that is worth mentioning. But beyond that, Selznick succeeds in creating an imaginative, fast-paced and one-of-a-kind reading experience that is at times part novel, part graphic novel, part picture book, part film. A truly captivating idea is executed with obvious love and passion for the story, resulting in the perfect combination of story and art.
"'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.'"