Monday, May 5, 2014

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.
Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.
Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary. (publisher's blurb)

I don't normally review middle-grade or YA books, but Brian Selznick's books are unique.  I was working at the library when Hugo Cabret came out, or it probably wouldn't have been on my radar.  I was amazed at the artwork, which made me curious about the story.  Mr. Selznick has a great talent for telling a story with pictures and few words, so I made my first visit to my new library's youth section to find Wonderstruck.

Ben's story is told completely in text and Rose's story is all in pictures, until the two intertwine at the end.  It is a beautiful story, enhanced by the same intricate illustrations that wowed me in Hugo Cabret.  Unfortunately, some of the illustrations felt hurried - like he was facing a deadline and needed to meet his quota of drawings.  Often, a two-page spread showed a well-drawn scene, but the next two pages were a closeup of some portion of the first drawing; the next two pages zoomed in closer, etc.  I'm not even sure if the second, third and fourth illustrations were actually redrawn or were just photographed and enlarged.  Like Hugo, Wonderstruck is more than 500 pages, but I think the author may have been better off to have fewer pages or take more time.

In spite of my mild disappointment with the drawings, I recommend the book for children and adults.  Adult-level readers will be able to finish it in an evening and it's an evening well spent.


  1. Good to see a book review again - you do a good job with them. Looks like an interesting read.

  2. I still haven't read Hugo but want to.