Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: Wonderstruck

By Brian Selznick
Expected publication September 13, 2011 by Scholastic Press

I, like many others (including the Caldecott committee), fell in love with Selznick's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. So, when I saw copies of his next novel (what is the right word for these two books? Novels with pictures?) at ALA in June, I frantically grabbed a copy. I don't even know if I asked first - that's how much greed I had for this title.

Here, Selznick tells the stories of Ben - growing up in northern Minnesota, trying to cope with her new orphan status and wondering if the answers to his questions can be found in the clues his mother left behind - and Rose - in the early part of the century in Hoboken, keeping a scrapbook of a glamorous actress, looking for an escape. The adventures begin as, decades apart, these two people set out for New York City, searching for their truths.

Once again, Selznick has created a beautiful book. His illustrations are so, so gorgeous - I want to frame them all. Here, Selznick tells one story in prose (Ben's) and the other in illustrations (Rose's). There is a bit of a mystery element as we try to figure out how these stories are connected and the resolution of this mystery is done beautifully, I think. Again, Selznick tells a story that is unique and rare in children's books - both main characters are deaf. Similarly to his earlier book, discovery is a big theme here. Both characters are trying to discover who they are and where they belong, as well as discovering a heap of other things along their adventures. I think both characters are well-defined and easy to relate to, though I think Selznick falters in his creation of Jamie - his situation and presence throughout the end of the book seemed a bit out of place to me. However, it was easy to get lost in this book and it's another truly great addition to children's literature.

That being said, though, a little bit is lost between The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. Part of the magic of the first was that is was so surprising, unique and new. Now, we have seen this type of story before, so some of that magic has gone. It is still a beautiful way to tell a story - it's just not as surprising and fresh as it was the first time.

I will treasure this book. Highly recommended. Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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