Book Review: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

WonderstruckWonderstruck by Brian Selznick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system. That way you’d be able to find whatever you were looking for, like the meaning of your dream, or your dad.

With The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick smashed open the category of “picture book”, using his fabulous pencil illustrations to tell the story of early cinema in an organic way. In this book, his innovative style is perfect for simultaneously telling two stories.

In 1977 Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, Ben Wilson is feeling lost six months after the death of his mother. He has never met his father, but a chance discovery makes Ben think he might be able to find him.

In 1927 Hoboken, New Jersey, Rose Kincaid is trapped in a lonely world. Her father keeps her cooped up at home, convinced the world is too dangerous for a Deaf girl to venture out alone. Determined Rose does just that, running away with no plans to return.

After an opening illustrated dream sequence, Ben’s story is told in conventional prose, alternating stretches with almost-wordless scenes from Rose’s life. The two tales, originally separated by 50 years and over a thousand miles, intertwine and become a single narrative by the end of the book.

Selznick appends a note on his inspiration and historical liberties taken, plus a bibliography for more information. He has clearly done his research on the various topics woven into Ben’s and Rose’s stories: the history of museums, the cities of Gunflint Lake and Hoboken, and Deaf Culture, as well as details specific to life in 1927.

It is a spectacular book, truly unlike anything else out there, with the possible exception of Hugo Cabret. Which is a bit of a shame, really, as it would be a mistake to come to Wonderstruck thinking, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen this sort of thing before.” This is even better. Let yourself be amazed.

And, if you happen to find yourself in Queens between September 2011 and January 15, 2012, make sure to catch Wonderstruck in the Panorama: Drawings by Brian Selznick at the Queens Museum of Art. It looks like an exhibition not to be missed.

Book Source: Checked out from my Public Library

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