Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wonderstruck: a review

Selznick, Brian. 2011. Wonderstruck.  New York: Scholastic.
 (Advance Reader Copy)

During the course of reading Wonderstruck, I misplaced the book.  When I asked my family if anyone had seen it, my daughter answered, "Which book?  The one with two different covers?"  I hadn't thought of it that way, but yes, the book with two different covers.
*minor spoiler alert*
(though I'm not giving any more away than Brian Selznick does in his Wonderstruck video - see below)

Wonderstruck's cover is a preview of its contents - two stories, two eras, two modes of storytelling. One would think that after his ground-breaking, Caldecott Winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick could not have any more surprises up his sleeve, but  in Wonderstruck, he again inspires us with this singular story of two mysterious and wonder-filled journeys.

Ben's story begins in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, in June, 1977; Rose's, in Hoboken, New Jersey, 1927.  Though 50 years divide their stories, the children embark on parallel journeys fraught with uncertainty and risk, and guided by purpose - a need to know.  Ben's story is told in third person prose, while Rose's is told in Selznick's incredibly detailed, unmistakable pencil drawings.  The two stories are woven together, sometimes almost touching, other times gathering distance until at last, in a single drawing, with a simple turn of the page, Selznick seamlessly binds the two stories together, where they stay, until Wonderstruck's conclusion.

It is clear that Selznick's fascination with silent film and early cinema did not end with Hugo Cabret.  Silent film is featured in Wonderstruck, not in the same capacity as in Hugo, but rather as a vehicle for introducing deaf culture. It is museums, not film or mechanics, that take center stage in Wonderstruck.  Both Rose and Ben are seeking something, and both find themselves, a half century apart, at the same location, the American Museum of Natural History, where they are fascinated by museum dioramas and early museum collections, or "cabinets of wonder."

Readers will be fascinated as well, by Wonderstruck's story, artwork, and the offered glimpse into another time and another culture.
A page from Brian Selznick's, Wonderstruck. © 2011
Rose can be seen ducking behind a "cabinet of wonders."

This drawing (not from Selznick's book) of an early "wonder room"
 or "curiosity cabinet," comes from the Smithsonian Institution's collection.
 It appeared in a 1599 book entitled, Dell'historia Naturale by Ferrante Imperato.
I've tried to be purposefully vague, because I enjoyed reading Wonderstruck with no preconceived notion or direction, trustingly following wherever it led. If you'd like more details, read another more revealing review @ Jen Robinson's Book Page.  And by all means, watch Brian Selznick's video.

I hope you enjoy Wonderstruck as much as I did.  It's due on shelves next week.  And remember, Hugo, the movie inspired by The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and directed by Martin Scorsese, is due in theaters in November. (Trailer here) Much to look forward to.

I'm also blogging at ALSC today.  If you've the time, hop over.


  1. Did you like it more than Hugo? I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. I have muted hopes for the Hugo movie after seeing the preview. The trailer left much to be desired.

  2. Hmmmm... did I like it more than Hugo? That's a tough one because they're so different. Forced to choose, I think I would pick Hugo Cabret, but it's really a toss up. I would offer you my book, but I passed it on to a deaf friend of mine. I hope to get her reaction to it. There are so few books featuring deaf characters. I don't believe that Wonderstruck immerses the reader in deaf culture, but it offers a wonderful glimpse. I hope she likes it. As for the movie, I hate to admit it, but all it takes is Jude Law's name in the credits to spark my interest. ;)


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