Selznick, B. (2011). Wonderstruck: a novel in words and pictures. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 9780545027892
Annotation: Ben lives in Minnesota in 1977. Rose lives in New Jersey in 1927. Using prose to tell Ben’s story and pictures for Rose’s, Selznick brings these two characters together.
Reaction: This book (and Selznick’s other illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret) is pretty daunting at first sight, until you realize that about half the book is made up of really beautiful illustrations. This would be such a great book to read with your kids before bed and would be also be great for introducing diversity to a kid who may not have any experience with deaf people or Deaf culture.
The drawings are amazing and very detailed. Selznick forces the reader to pay attention to what’s going on in the drawings as they tell an important part of the story. I actually confused myself because I missed the changes he introduced to the drawings to indicate the passage of time for Rose from 1927 to 1977. I loved the way he used white space to set her off from the crowds around her, so the reader instinctively knows who the subject of the scene is. And even though Rose tells her story to Ben later in the prose section, the reader already knows all that because Selznick is meticulous about including all the pertinent information in his drawings. I was a little concerned when I first started the book because I am notorious for skimming over illustrations and missing details. I had to remind myself to pay attention and even narrated the action of the pictures to myself. I really think this was probably a great exercise for me personally in observation and paying attention to the details.
Right before I read this, I’d been watching a lot of Switched a Birth on Netflix, which features main characters who have been deaf nearly all their lives, so reading about Ben dealing with being newly deaf was really interesting. He had to totally relearn how to communicate with the world around him, and I’m so glad Selznick included the wonder he felt at his discovery of sign language.
I loved Selznick’s description of the magic of museums, of discovering and collecting and being a curator of your own life. The glimpses of the inner workings of the museum was wonderful and shows the amount of effort that going into all the museum pieces and displays. Ben’s book within the book was a particularly nice touch.
Though I didn’t pick up it, Selznick in the Acknowledgements says he alludes to From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by K.L. Konigsburg multiple times throughout the book. To be fair, I last read that book when I was 12 myself, so I’m sure kids who have read it more recently will be able to spot Selznick’s references.
This book is on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”
This book is on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class.
Media Used: Pencil on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper.