Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wonderstruck and Wonderful

With all the attention Brian Selznick is getting with the movie version of Hugo Cabret out in theaters, I imagine his books are going to be flying off the shelves. His combination of beautiful stories and amazing illustrations leaves plowing through the huge tomes and still wanting more once you have finished. In Wonderstruck, Selznick has done it again. He has created a masterpiece.

Ben has lost his mother. He is living with his aunt and uncle, but he can still see the house he shared with his mother. When he wanders over there one night, he find something in his mother's belongings that might be the name and number of the father he never knew. While trying to dial the number, Ben is struck by lightning that puts him in the hospital and leaves him deaf. He runs away from the hospital and goes to New York City to find the man who might be his father.  

Fifty years earlier, Rose runs away to New York City. She is deaf, and it is dangerous for her to travel alone, but she is determined to see her mother, a famous actress. She is rescued by her brother and stays with him in the city. Her life changes when she learns to sign and meets a deaf man who she can't help but fall in love with. Growing up deaf is hard, but the biggest struggle is that people don't think you are capable of being independent. As Rose grows up, gets married, and has a child, she also shows the world that being deaf won't stop you from being happy. When Ben and Rose finally cross paths, they realize there is more that connects them than just being deaf. Their connection is one that will warm even the coldest of hearts.

This was an absolutely beautiful story of two lives, lived so far apart, yet connected through one person. With over 400 pages of incredible illustrations, this book is yet another wonder of the genius that is Brian Selznick. Ben's story is told entirely in text. Rose's story is told entirely in illustrations. No words, just feeling, emotions, and imagination. Then, when the characters come together, the stories are told in a combination of illustrations and text. It is such a beautiful way to tell the two stories. The use of the illustrations for Rose's story makes you actually live through it with her. There is so much power and impact in the delivery of this story, you won't stop thinking about it.

This is a great middle reader story, but would be a great book to use for an emergent older reader. Since  the story is mostly told in images, it would be a great book to give an emergent reader a sense of accomplishment and still practice reading. Like Selznick's first book, this story opens up possibilities for these emergent older readers that no other book could- a book they can read and still be proud of reading. I hope Selznick continues with these stories. They are simply breathtaking. 

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