Selznick magic strikes again in Wonderstruck

December 5, 2011 at 6:27 am Leave a comment

Wonderstruck written and illustrated by Brian Selznick; published by Scholastic, Inc., New York; 2011.

Ben and Rose are deaf children.  Both have suffered more loss than a child should bear.  Their stories run parallel but are fifty years separated.  Yet by some miracle, their paths cross in New York City.  A common love of museums, art and cabinets of wonders (or curiosities), along with other similarities, will keep them walking a common path into the future.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot of this story for fear of giving away some secrets.  But that’s okay.  There is so very much to cover about Selznick’s second novel.  Like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck is told as much in images as in words.  In the case of Wonderstruck, the images are the only way Rose’s story is told.  Very clever, IMHO, to tell the story of a deaf girl through images.  Parallel stories told in disparate ways not only makes the book interesting to “read” but also helps readers understand the differences in the characters.

I adored this book because one of the main plot points involves museums.  Ben is a collector and displays his treasures in small, divided boxes, which he discovers is called a “cabinet of curiosities” or a “cabinet of wonder,” the first incarnation of museums.  The museum “character” grows as Ben explores New York’s American Museum of Natural History.  In the Acknowledgments at the end of the book, Selznick discusses how he was inspired by a display at the museum as well as by E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  In fact, the author challenges readers to find a number of references to the book about children who run away to the museum.  Additionally, the Queens Museum of Art’s Panorama of New York City exhibit also plays a pivotal role in the book.  You can see the online exhibit here:  So for me, an avowed museum loving librarian, this book was the complete package!

So, obviously, I’m going to recommend that all the museum references made in the book be included on a bookmark to hand out whenever the book is checked out.  Let’s get the kids excited about museums so they can explore their passions and become lifelong learners!



Entry filed under: Children's Chapter Book, Graphic Novel (fiction or non-fiction, grades K-6). Tags: , , , , , , .

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