by Brian Selznick
[#46 in my 52 book challenge]
If you’ve read Selznick’s Caldecott Award-winning The Invention of Huge Cabret, then you understand the unique format of Selnick’s books. Wonderstruck, like Cabret, tells a story through both words and pictures. LOTS of pictures. Like, it’s a 600+ page book that only took me a couple of hours to read because it it mostly full-page illustrations. It’s an interesting concept: not quite graphic novel, not quite picture book, not quite regular novel, but, rather, something that meets at the intersection of all three formats.
The illustrations tell the story of Rose, a twelve-year-old deaf girl living in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1927 who dreams of New York City. The text tells the story of Ben, a boy living in Minnesota in 1977 after the death of his mother. Ben is deaf in one ear, and becomes deaf in the other after an accident. Ben and Rose’s lives are quite parallel throughout the story, until the ending reveals how their stories are related.
There are so many cool elements in this story, and Selznick’s pictures add great depth to the understanding of the time period. It immediately brought to mind EL Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, since so much of the action centers around a museum in New York. Konigsburg focused on The Metropolitan Museum of Art, while Selznick features the Museum of Natural History. In reading the acknowledgements at the end, I found out that Selznick was inspired by Konigsburg’s story and includes many references to Konigsburg and The Mixed Up Files throughout the story. His challenge is for the reader to go back and find all of these references — I immediately thought of two: the name of the bookstore, Kincaid’s, is the last name of Konigsburg’s protagonists, and Ben meets a boy named Jamie. The book is dedicated to Maurice Sendak, which just made me smile.
Also, I learned in my research that Brian Selznick is gay. He said that inspiration in writing a story about a deaf child raised by hearing parents (and a hearing child raise by deaf parents) was in growing up gay and knowing he was different from his own parents. I thought that was pretty cool. Thumbs up to Selznick.
Posted on October 23, 2011, in books, Challenges, librarian, People and tagged 52 Books 2011, Caldecott, children's books, deaf, graphic novels, nostalgia, queer, realistic fiction, retro. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.