- Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
- Reading level: Ages 9-12
- Hardcover: 608 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 13, 2011)
- ISBN-13: 978-0545027892
Back-of-the-book blurb: Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.
Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories–Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: Wonderstruck, indeed! Brian Selznick’s new novel for tweens and teens (and, ahem, “grown-ups” too), is a wonder for its incredible charcoal drawings (460 pages of original artwork), its shadow-like plot lines, and its historical accuracy. I’m not sure which aspect impressed me most; taken together, it’s out of the ballpark.
Ben’s story (the written word) takes place in the summer of 1977, beginning in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. Rose’s story opens in Hoboken, New Jersey in the fall of 1927. The two closely parallel each other, with similarities through time and place. I can’t even hint at more about the plot; it really needs to be discovered by the reader.
The physical structure of the book is a thoughtful pattern – Selznick shares about a half dozen pages of Ben’s story in text, then has several pages of detailed charcoal drawings showing a connection to Rose’s story. The last page of text before the switch to illustration is set with a lot of white space around it, letting the reader know that the story is about to shift, and easing the transition to Rose’s story. The drawings are beautifully detailed; in several sequences, Selznick shows a distant perspective, honing in closer and closer on subsequent pages, giving a sense of movement.
Again, without spoiling the plot, I must say that Selznick’s attention to historical detail added to my enjoyment of the novel. The “now and then” comparisons, information about geology and weather patterns, understanding of Deaf culture, and clever interplays make this a book that is as much fun for the reader to deconstruct as I imagine it was for Selznick to create.
One quote, from Ben’s perspective:
He wished that he was with his mom in her library, where everything was safe and numbered and organized by the Dewey decimal system. 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.
Brian Selznick presented at BookExpo America’s “Children’s Author’s Breakfast” in May. He showed a video of his studio, and of packing up all 460 drawings to send to his editor. The video below showcases these incredible drawings, as the author talks about how and why he created Wonderstruck, and his hope that “the love that I felt for these different elements and for these characters comes through.” It does!