sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

January 10, 2012

into the stacks: wonderstruck
posted by soe 4:00 am

The first book finished in 2012:

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

From the jacket: “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.”

My take: I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I read it nearly two years ago. I loved the cover when I saw it at the bookstore and bought it for myself based solely on that feature while it was still new in hardcover, which anyone who knows me in real life will tell you is something I never do for authors I don’t already love. So when I learned that Brian Selznick was writing a new book, I vowed to read it, too.

Rudi and Sarah and I got to hear Selznick talk about his second book, Wonderstruck, at the National Book Festival this fall, and it sounded truly promising, especially for a stand-alone sophomore work.

But then work happened this fall, and I essentially stopped reading and sort of fell into a book slump. So when Rudi surprised me with a copy for Christmas, I was utterly delighted and started reading it in restrained little chunks the very next day.

Wonderstruck takes what Selznick did with The Invention of Hugo Cabret — combine words and art in a singular way that defies easy characterization into a genre of literature — and expands on it. In this work, he tells parallel stories within the two styles of storytelling, eventually drawing them together into a single, comprehensive tale.

Ben, whose story arc comprises the text portion of the novel, is a twelve-year-old boy in small-town Minnesota 1977. He has been living with his aunt and uncle and their family since the sudden death of his single mother three months earlier. His prized possession from earlier days of happiness is a wooden box containing a collection of small items that have meaning for him. One stormy night, he discovers a secret his mother kept from him and sets about unraveling it, with nearly disastrous results.

Rose, whose portion of the book is told through illustration, is growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey, 50 years earlier. She has a view of New York City from her window, a bedroom filled with books and models of skyscrapers, and an obsession with the life and career of silent film star Lillian Mayhew.

Told in concert and interspersed over varying numbers of pages, Rose and Ben’s stories will overlap in unexpected places and ways. And, eventually, the lives of these two children born a half century apart will bring them both to the same place — New York’s American Museum of Natural History — in their quests for answers.

Charming and masterful, Wonderstruck offers you essentially a movie inside the cover of a novel. Do not let the book’s size scare you off, as it will only take a few delightful hours to read it start to finish, and when you close the cover with a smile, you’ll be tempted to begin again, or, at the very least, flip back through to better appreciate the detail that went into the pictorial portion of the novel. A recommended read for … well … everyone.

Pages: 637

Category: books. There is/are 1 Comment.