Young People’s Pavilion: Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick

 by Michael Strickland

From Brian Selznick, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, comes another breathtaking tour de force. Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

 One amazon reviewer wrote: "At over 600 pages, Wonderstruck is, physically, a brick of a book but it is filled with poetry of intertwining prose and picture and will, hopefully, leave you as 'Wonderstruck' as it left me."

The book takes readers to 1977 in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. Ben Wilson is a young boy who has lost his mother. He now lives with his well-meaning aunt and uncle who are struggling financially. Ben is stuck sharing a room with a resentful and bullying cousin, Robby. The protagonist wishes for the one thing that he can never have. Robby, partially deaf, has grown up in the sheltered world created by his mom. She is a single mother and librarian who fed his fascination with outer space. She covered their fridge with her favorite quotations. But she isn't coming back. 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. Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary. Here is a passage:
"The North Star was the last star in the tail of the Little Dipper, and the book said that travelers had used this star for centuries to find their way when they were lost. "If you are ever lost," his mom said when he showed her the book, "just find the North Star and it will lead you home." His mom smiled, and pointed to a bulletin board next to her desk. Unlike the refrigerator at home, it had just one quote taped to it. Ben read it out loud: "'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.'" Because his mom was the town librarian, Ben was used to being surrounded by quotes from books, many of which he didn't fully understand. But this one struck him as particularly strange." (p.21-22)
Wonderstruck is a captivating, affecting novel. This is a big, beautiful miracle of a book; engrossing, intelligent, beautifully engineered. The story is expertly told in word and image, creating a cabinet of wonders itself. "Brian Selznick's lovely story will likely find its own place in the hearts of young people who yearn for a world of their own." -National Public Radio