Everything about this book is wonderful! All the way through I kept thinking of one of my favourite childhood books – From the mixed up files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler (Newberry winner 1968) and now, when I have finished Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, I was delighted to read in the acknowledgements that he also loved this book and has actually put in many references to this story by EL Konigsburg so now I need to re read From the mixed up files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler and then re read Wonderstruck to find the connections.
A few years ago I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Caldecott winner 2008) and was swept along by both the written story and the amazing visual images. In Wonderstruck we now have a second outstanding story in words and pictures by the gifted creator Brian Selznick.
Wonderstruck is an innovative dual narrative. There is Ben, a boy living in 1977 in Minnesota. His world has been turned upside down with the death of his mother and the discovery of mysterious details about his unknown father. Along side this we see the story of Rose who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey fifty years earlier. The story of Rose’s childhood is told through illustrations that move swiftly like a silent film. The idea of silent motion pictures as a way to tell stories is important to the author especially as a way deaf and hearing people in the past were able to enjoy this shared experience.
This is a massive book with over 630 pages but just like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the two alternating stories speed along. I found myself wanting to slow down my reading so I could make the experience of reading this inspiring book last longer. I also kept hoping there would be a link between Rose and Ben but I am not going to tell you about this beautiful and emotional part of the book.
Working as a Teacher-Librarian I love references to libraries. Here is one I will now treasure : “The next morning, Ben headed to the wolf diorama. He read the sign on the wall over and over again … he wished that he were 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 our dad.”
This is one of those very, very special books that I can't wait to put into the hands of my students. At times like this I feel very privileged to collect, read and share the reading treasures that abound in our world.
If I ever get to New York I would love to visit all the special places that are included in this story. Here is another detailed review. Here is a very detailed interview.
Finally I gasped out loud when I read the dedication on the last page – "To Maurice Sendak" a perfect way to link these two outstanding talents!