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.)
From the Publisher
Awards and Praises for The Invention of Hugo Cabret (partial listing):
2008 Caldecott Medal winner
National Book Award Finalist
#1 New York Times Bestseller
New York Times Best Illustrated Book
Quill Award Winner
Borders Original Voices Finalist
Los Angeles Times Favorite Children's Book of the Year
Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
“A true masterpiece.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Evokes wonder . . . like a silent film on paper.”–The New York Times
“Visually stunning . . . raises the bar.”–San Antonio Express-News
“Shatters conventions.”–School Library Journal, starred review
“Complete genius.”–The Horn Book, starred review
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The separate stories of two youngsters, a boy in 1977 and a girl in 1927, finally come almost miraculously together. The boy's tale is told at first in engrossing text; the girl's only in black and white double-page textured drawings. We meet Ben living unhappily in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota with his aunt and uncle and family, having lost his mother in a car accident. He is deaf in one ear, but after a lightning strike accident he is completely deaf. Finding clues to a father he never knew, Ben takes off for New York City to find him. In 1927 a girl named Rose lives isolated by her deafness in Hoboken, New Jersey, looking yearningly across the river at New York City where her mother is a famous actress. She too runs away. Themes run through both stories: parents, deafness, storms, stars, and the American Museum of Natural History. Some coincidences must be accepted, but the happy ending is both believable and satisfying. Selznick provides detailed, naturalistic, black pencil drawings that create gray, almost photographic scenes of buildings and people with a sense of mystery. We are swept into the powerful visual story as the point of view zooms in or out. The provocative narrative, similar in format to the author's The Invention of Hugo Cabret, leaves the reader with much to think about and illustrations to peruse repeatedly. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
VOYA - Lauri J. Vaughan
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 knownhis mother, Elainein 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 wolvesand 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 copiesand 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. Reviewer: Lauri J. Vaughan
School Library Journal
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
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)
…engrossing, intelligent, beautifully engineered and expertly told both in word and image…Selznick's gift is for the uncanny and the haunting, and his subject is not only the strange poetry of ordinary things but the poetry of things from another time: train stations, frozen museum dioramas and old bookstores.
The New York Times Book Review
With this superb illustrated novel, Brian Selznick proves to be that rare creator capable of following one masterpieceThe Invention of Hugo Cabret, winner of the 2008 Caldecott Medalwith another even more brilliantly executed.
The Washington Post