Wonderstruck

Brian Selznick. Scholastic Press, $29.99 (640p) ISBN 978-0-545-02789-2
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.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
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Hardcover - 640 pages - 978-986-216-869-1
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