Reviews for Wonderstruck : A Novel in Words and Pictures


Booklist Reviews 2011 August #1
"*Starred Review* Opening Selznick's new book is like opening a cabinet of wonders--the early museum display case "filled with a nearly infinite variety of amazing things" that is so central to this story. Following the Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007), Selznick offers another visual narrative, one that feels even better suited to his inventive style. The beautifully crafted structure includes two stories set 50 years apart. The first, set in 1977, is told in text and follows Ben, who is grieving the sudden loss of his mother when he stumbles upon clues that point to his father's identity. The second, told entirely in richly shaded pencil drawings, opens in 1927 as a young girl, Rose, gazes at a newspaper clipping. Rose is deaf, and Ben also loses his hearing, during a lightning strike. Both lonely children run away to New York City, and their parallel stories echo and reflect each other through nuanced details, which lead "like a treasure map" to a conjoined, deeply satisfying conclusion. Selznick plays with a plethora of interwoven themes, including deafness and silence, the ability to see and value the world, family, and the interconnectedness of life. Although the book is hefty, at more than 600 pages, the pace is nevertheless brisk, and the kid-appealing mystery propels the story. With appreciative nods to museums, libraries, and E. L. Konigsburg, Wonderstruck is a gift for the eye, mind, and heart." Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2011 September
Two stories in search of wonder

The 2008 Caldecott Committee made a bold decision in selecting Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret as its Medal winner. A 544-page novel as best picture book? It did have 158 illustrations central to the telling of the story, and the committee decided it was a new form of picture book.

Now, Selznick is back with Wonderstruck, an even bigger novel. As in Hugo Cabret, artwork tells much of the story, two independent threads of visual and prose narrative weaving in and out, eventually coming together as the protagonists meet and their stories join. Young Ben’s prose narrative begins in 1977, at Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, and young Rose’s visual narrative begins in 1927, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Both characters yearn for a better life, trying to find their places in the world. Ben’s mother has died, and his journey takes him to New York City in search of the father he never knew. Rose is deaf and her parents are protective, but she, too, is lured by the big city.

Selznick’s pencil drawings perfectly capture Rose’s heartbreak­ingly earnest expressions, and a full-page spread evokes in careful detail the “cabinets of wonders,” early museum displays of objects that evoke the wonders of the world. By the end of the novel, Ben wonders if we’re not all collectors of objects, moments and experiences, “making our own cabinet of wonders” during our lives. This becomes the novel’s theme: being open to the wonders of the world.

Not everyone is open to being wonderstruck, but Ben and Rose are; as they say (in a line borrowed from Oscar Wilde), “We are all in the gutter, but some of u[Wed Jul 23 22:49:32 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. s are looking at the stars.”

Copyright 2011 BookPage Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Pictures follow a girl, Rose, in 1927; the text is set in 1977 where a boy, Ben, struggles with hearing loss. The two eventually meet: as an adult, Rose works at New York's Museum of Natural History, where Ben also finds himself. Ben's story suffers from an excess of telling rather than showing; nevertheless, there is much technical brilliance and genuine heart here. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #5
With Wonderstruck's opening wordless sequence of an approaching wolf, readers might think they've embarked upon a Gary Paulsen novel, but this is a story not of wilderness adventure but of two young people running -- to New York City -- for their lives. The pictures (pencil, double-page spread, wordless) follow a young girl, Rose, living in material comfort but also emotional distress in 1927 Hoboken; the text is set in 1977 in Minnesota's Boundary Waters region, where a boy, Ben, struggles with the death of his mother and the loss of his hearing. Yes, Rose and Ben eventually meet, as do the text and pictures, but both stories are encumbered by the conclusion of the book, which, in resolving many themes and mysteries, dictates too much of what has gone before -- it feels as if the narrative was composed backward rather than arising organically from its beginnings. For example, Rose's childhood hobby of constructing model buildings from the pages of hated books doesn't seem to follow from anything, but it does give her an adult career at New York's Museum of Natural History, where Ben also finds himself after several similarly belabored circumstances. Still, there is much technical brilliance here, both in the segues between text and pictures and between the pictures themselves, as in a scene where Rose, locked in a room, seems to be contemplating the many photographs on a wall, but a page turn reveals that Rose has actually spotted a window -- and escapes. While Ben's story suffers from an excess of telling rather than showing, he (Rose, too) is openhearted and easy to love. The intricate puzzle-solving of the plot gets a generous and welcome shot of straightforward emotion when Ben is given an unabashedly romantic friendship with another boy, Jamie, with whom he experiences the wonders of the museum in secret and at night, a nod to E. L. Konigsburg that Selznick acknowledges in an informative closing note. roger sutton Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #1

Brian Selznick didn't have to do it.

He didn't have to return to the groundbreaking pictures-and-text format that stunned the children's-book world in 2007 and won him an unlikely—though entirely deserved—Caldecott medal for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Weighing in at about two pounds, the 500-plus page tome combined textual and visual storytelling in a way no one had quite seen before.

In a world where the new becomes old in the blink of an eye, Selznick could have honorably rested on his laurels and returned to the standard 32-to-48–page picture-book format he has already mastered. He didn't have to try to top himself.

But he has.

If Hugo Cabret was a risky experiment that succeeded beyond Selznick and publisher Scholastic's wildest dreams (well, maybe not Scholastic's—they dream big), his follow-up, Wonderstruck, is a far riskier enterprise. In replicating the storytelling format of Hugo, Selznick begs comparisons that could easily find Wonderstruck wanting or just seem stale.

Like its predecessor, this self-described "novel in words and pictures" opens with a cinematic, multi-page, wordless black-and-white sequence: Two wolves lope through a wooded landscape, the illustrator's "camera" zooming in to the eye of one till readers are lost in its pupil. The scene changes abruptly, to Gunflint Lake, Minn., in 1977. Prose describes how Ben Wilson, age 12, wakes from a nightmare about wolves. He's three months an orphan, living with his aunt and cousins after his mother's death in an automobile accident; he never knew his father. Then the scene cuts again, to Hoboken in 1927. A sequence of Selznick's now-trademark densely crosshatched black-and-white drawings introduces readers to a girl, clearly lonely, who lives in an attic room that looks out at New York City and that is filled with movie-star memorabilia and models—scads of them—of the skyscrapers of New York.

Readers know that the two stories will converge, but Selznick keeps them guessing, cutting back and forth with expert precision. Both children leave their unhappy homes and head to New York City, Ben hoping to find his father and the girl also in search of family. The girl, readers learn, is deaf; her silent world is brilliantly evoked in wordless sequences, while Ben's story unfolds in prose. Both stories are equally immersive and impeccably paced.

The two threads come together at the American Museum of Natural History, Selznick's words and pictures communicating total exhilaration (and conscious homage to The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). Hugo brought the bygone excitement of silent movies to children; Wonderstruck shows them the thrilling possibilities of museums in a way Night at the Museum doesn't even bother to.

Visually stunning, completely compelling, Wonderstruck demonstrates a mastery and maturity that proves that, yes, lightning can strike twice. (Historical fiction. 9 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 July #3

Selznick follows his Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret with another illustrated novel that should cement his reputation as one of the most innovative storytellers at work today. Ben and Rose are both hearing-impaired. He is 12 in 1977; she is the same age 50 years earlier. Selznick tells their story in prose and pictures beginning with Ben, living (unhappily) with his aunt and uncle, 83 steps from the Minnesota lake cabin he shared with his librarian mother until her death in a car accident three months earlier. He has never met his father, but has reason to believe he may live in New York. As in Hugo Cabret, a significant part of the story is told in sequential illustrations, most of which depict the even unhappier Rose, whose movie star mother has remarried, leaving her daughter with her ex-husband in New Jersey. Both children run away to Manhattan seeking something from their respective absent parents. It takes several hundred pages and a big chunk of exposition to connect these two strands, but they converge in an emotionally satisfying way. Selznick masterfully uses pencil and paper like a camera, starting a sequence with a wide shot and zooming in on details on successive pages. Key scenes occur when the runaways find themselves in one of Manhattan's storied museums, and with one character named Jamie, and Rose's surname being Kincaid, it's impossible not to think of E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, to which Selznick tips his hat in an author's note. Like that Newbery winner, Selznick's story has the makings of a kid-pleasing classic. Ages 9-up. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 August

Gr 4-8--Using the format he so brilliantly introduced in The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007), Selznick tells two parallel stories. The first, taking place in 1977, is told through words. Ben Wilson lives in Gunflint, MN. His mother has just died, and he doesn't know the whereabouts of his father. Disaster ensues when Ben is struck by lightning and loses the hearing in his one good ear. He runs away from his aunt and uncle and goes in search of his father. Parallel to Ben's story, and told through illustrations, is the story of Rose, a deaf child who lives in Hoboken, NJ, in 1927, with her overbearing father. She lives in a room that feels more like a prison, where she keeps a scrapbook of her silent-film star mother and builds models of New York City. Both Ben and Rose escape to New York and are drawn to the American Museum of Natural History. It is there that they find the connections they are seeking. The way that the stories of Ben and Rose echo one another, and then finally connect, is a thing of wonder to behold. The dual text/illustration format is not a gimmick when used to tell the right stories; the combination provides an emotional experience that neither the words nor the illustrations could achieve on their own.--Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO

[Page 120]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2011 October
Selznick follows up his Caldecott Medal winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007/VOYA February 2007), with the similarly designed Wonderstruck. The story of Rose, a young deaf girl living in Hoboken, N.J., takes place in 1927 and is delivered exclusively in full-page, black-and-white drawings. Rose longs to experience Manhattan, the magical city where her mother performs and that she can see from her home but is forbidden to visit. Rose's tale is interspersed with the seemingly unrelated story of Ben, which takes place fifty years later in northern Minnesota and is delivered exclusively in text. Ben, who was born deaf in one ear, has recently suffered the loss of the only parent he has ever known--his mother, Elaine--in a car accident. Circumstances contrive to deepen Ben's tragedy when a lightning strike renders him completely deaf. The handicap does not prevent Ben from seeking out the identity of his father, however, and he shortly embarks on a journey to New York's American Museum of Natural History. Rose, too, embarks on a journey that ends up at that venerable institution. It is not until the third and final section that the connection between Ben and Rose becomes apparent and the story's advancement shares pictures and text. Wonderstruck is weakened with a few too many implausible events that middle school readers will quickly sniff out and question. Still, those willing to suspend the litmus test of reality will enjoy puzzling out the mystery of Ben and Rose. No doubt the Caldecott committee will be taking a close look at this beautifully illustrated title. Selznick has done an admirable job of weaving in bits of information on a myriad of topics, including museums, deaf culture, geology, astronomy, and wolves--and even provides a bibliography for readers interested in learning more. Readers and young artists will be snapping this title off the shelves. Libraries serving large populations will need multiple copies--and will probably need to check the wear and tear on their copies of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, as this title will no doubt re-ignite interest in the 2008 Caldecott winner.--Lauri J. Vaughan 4Q 5P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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