A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{June 21, 2011}   Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Plot: In 1977, Ben loses his mother and his hearing and sets off to New York to find a father he has never known. In 1927, Rose gazes out at New York City from her window, feeling trapped. She refuses to believe, as her parents do, that it is not safe outside for a deaf girl.

This review is based on an Advanced Reader’s Copy received at Book Expo America.

Wonderstruck, like Selznick’s award-winning novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is told in alternating text and images. But it is so much more than an illustrated novel. It is in fact two parallel stories, one told in text and the other in images that eventually merge into one tale. Selznick weaves his beautiful art and his simple, expressive text together seamlessly. It also makes a lot of sense narratively; Rose’s visual narrative reflects the way she interacts with the world. The book looks huge but the narrative flows so well that it can be finished in a matter of hours. But it also rewards deep, careful reading with its details and its recurring themes.

This is a story about so many things: deafness and Deaf culture, museums and collecting, absent parents, lightning, communication, movies and serendipity. Selznick has done an incredible amount of research for this book. But he is never heavy handed, all his knowledge is revealed subtly, in the little details of the story. At the end of the novel he offers a bibliography for those who wish to delve further into a subject (personally, he’s peaked my interest in Deaf culture).

As a librarian I couldn’t help but take note of the following passage: “Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system. That way you’d be able to find whatever you were looking for, like the meaning of your dream, or your dad.” … that would be convenient but I wouldn’t want to be in charge of cataloguing the whole world. ^_^

The book comes out in September 2011, only a couple of months before the Hugo Cabret movie, I hope you all look forward to it.

Challenges: YA Historical Challenge (8)


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