by Brian Selznick
While going through his mother’s things after she dies in a car crash, young Ben finds a bookmark with a note he suspects was written by his father, a man he has never known. Although he lives with his aunt and uncle only a few miles away from his childhood home, Ben decides to run away to New York City to find his father. It’s a difficult task for anyone, but a freak accident has recently left Ben deaf. A boy named Jamie befriends Ben soon after he arrives and helps him find a place to hide in a secret room at the Natural History Museum. Interwoven with Ben’s adventures are wordless illustrations that tell the story of a girl named Rose, living in the 1920s. Like Ben, she’s a runaway who goes to New York City to see her idol, silent film star Lillian Mayhew. Eventually the narratives of Rose’s picture-story and Ben’s text-story are joined in a triumph of Selznick’s unique mixed-media approach to storytelling.
The illustrated pages are beautiful black and white pencil sketches. They remind me of animation storyboards. Each page captures a moment and your imagination fills in the space between each scene. In some ways, “reading” these pages is challenging, because once a child learns to read they rarely look back to wordless storytelling. But it suits the novel so well. As the reader passes the initial surprise and discomfort of learning to read a story without words, it creates empathy for Ben and Rose, both of whom are deaf, and their struggle to communicate with other non-deaf characters.
I also liked the choice to give the visual chapters to Rose. We know she loves silent films, and it feels incredibly right that her story be told in a format that she enjoys. Brian Selznick shows such creativity and thoughtfulness in the creation of this novel.
I haven’t even touched on the story yet. What child doesn’t fantasize about hiding in a museum overnight? Whether their curiosity is inspired by films like Night at the Museum or books like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, kids always want to know what goes on behind the closed doors. It’s a real treat to follow Ben through the museum’s hidden corridors, and the mystery behind his father’s identity keeps the story moving forward.
It’s an amazing, wonderful book. I can’t recommend it enough. Beautiful, intriguing, and endlessly creative, this book is perfectly described by its title. It will surely leave each reader Wonderstruck.
5 out of 5 stars
To read more about Wonderstruck, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2014: Subscription Box: Comic Bento, September 2014
2013: Utah Shakespeare Festival: Richard II
2012: Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
2011: Taking a break...thank my teachers for it!
2010: News: 10 DIY Projects For Old Books
2009: Massive Giveaways from Powells Books!
2008: The Fire and the Light by Glen Craney