Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Pictures and words. 

Both tell a story, sometimes together, sometimes they work separately. Like lightning, pictures are striking and mesmerizing. More subtle, like the feeling of wonder, words lure you in and fill you with their knowledge and meaning.

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick,weaves together pictures and texts to tell the story of two young kids, fifty years apart. The story of Rose, set in the 1920s, is told through pictures and drawings. The story of Ben, set in the 1970s, is through text. It is fascinating to see how, for example, a drawing from Rose's story that shows a thunderstorm, will connect to the text about Ben's life, as he also gets caught out in a storm. The two stories have strong echoes of each other, but tell individual stories as well. 

See, both Ben and Rose are deaf. Ben lost his hearing in the thunderstorm and Rose cannot be sure just when exactly she lost hers. Both are lonely. Rose is kept hidden from the world because of the dangers it could hold for a young deaf girl, and Ben because he just lost his mother. Because Ben is so recently deaf, he does not know sign language or lip reading, unlike Rose, who was educated in those skills. Both Rose and Ben run away; Ben to find his father and Rose to see her brother and both Rose and Ben end up in the same museum, just fifty years apart. Ben encounters many people who try to help him navigate through New York and the museum, eventually hoping to find his father. Rose just wants to live, and uses the museum as an escape from her life as a captive in her own house.

Brian Selznick created a fascinating story. The video linked above shows just how passionate he was about this book, and it really showed through on the pages. At first, I was a little put off by the drawings, but I really found myself enjoying them; they are beautifully done, the drawings are so detailed and they tell the story just as well, if not better, than the text did. This style of writing would be perfect to lure in reluctant readers; it has both pictures and words, which appeal to many young adults. I found it to be a very quick read, but students probably would not, which they may not enjoy (Wonderstruck is very intimidating at 608 pages). I also really enjoyed that it was not another adventure by some random kids; these kids had real issues and problems to overcome. It may appeal to those students who feel that they do not fit in; both Rose and Ben were singled out because of their deafness, but both overcame their isolation to make great friends and relationships that stand the test of time. It would also be appealing to both boys and girls. It is a story about adventure and mystery, but not so much so that the girls won't read it and it is not very romantic and "mushy" so it would shut out the boys.


runner4life23 said...

I love stories that seem like they will never connect, but ultimately do overlap. Wonderstruck sounds like a definite read for anyone :) Unfortunately, I do understand why some people won't pick it up since its 608 pages, but if they read your review Amber, they'd consider it like I'm doing at the moment. Although I did enjoy the fact that both characters made it to the museum, is it too much to assume people did not help Rose in the same way they helped Ben find the museum? I wouldn't want to believe it, but with some knowledge of the past, plus your review, it seems to me that people with disabilities were looked at as nonhuman or in any cause, unable to function at all.

Safa said...

I would definitely read this book for many reasons. Although as a teenager 608 pages might frighten me. I think if I was to incorporate the reading into my classroom I would go over the major topics including special need students. That way they are searching for something other than just a good read.

Tom Philion said...

Great idea, Safa--nice connection!

And great review Amber. Maybe the last two or three sentences could be cut or condensed, but overall this is very well organized and I loved your hyperlinks--good job!

I have this sitting on my bookshelf--will definitely read soon. I can't believe I was just at the Museum of Natural History--I should have read this before that visit.

If you like this book, check out his other books, especially the book that inspired the movie Hugo.

I wouldn't worry too much about length, although I could see where some might at first be put off. But when you open it up and see all the pictures, it makes reading easy. My 6th grade daughter finished Wonderstruck in a couple of hours.