Finished: Nov. 20, 2011
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: children, historical fiction, realistic fiction, 1920s, 1970s
Something hit Ben Wilson and he opened his eyes.
Acquired: Received a Review Copy from Scholastic Canada.
Reason for Reading: I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret and have just been waiting for Selznick to follow it up with something similar.
Following the same "genre-breaking form" he established in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick returns to the half text/half wordless picture book to tell two parallel stories set fifty years apart until they eventually merge together into the same tale. The first story set in the 1970s features Ben whose mother has just died in a car accident; he's never known who his father was and after looking around his mom's room he discovers some clues to his identity. He runs away to New York in search of the man he's never known. Fifty years earlier in the 1920s, we are introduced to Rose, a young girl with a fixation on a silent movie star who feels trapped in her own home. She too runs away to New York to find a friend named Walter, who will hopefully help her escape her strict father. Eventually the two stories catch up to each other and merge into one story.
Ben's story is told purely in text using roughly about 200 pgs., while Rose's story is told in the remaining 400-odd pages in wordless illustrated sequences. As each story alternates, the reader switches gears from reading words to gazing enraptured at the illustrations. The artwork, needless to say in superb! Selznick has created another masterpiece in this hybrid of novel and picture book. The story is compelling and touching. The characters lovable and real. My only beef would be that Hugo Cabret included with the illustrations photos and movie stills; Wonderstruck is pure illustration. I think the topic, themes and time period would have lent themselves well to including this type of media as well, especially considering one of the 1920s characters is a famous silent film/stage star. Otherwise a pure delight! Of the two I liked Hugo better but this is a worthy follow up and still deserving of a top rating. Looking forward to seeing Selznick continue in this fascinating format in a future book.