A Tapestry of Words and Pictures: Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick (lexile: 830; AR book level: 5.4; 640 pp)

Last night I read 2½ pounds of book — 640-pages — in a couple hours.  No, I’m not a gonzo-speed-reader — the book was Brian Selznick’s new Wonderstruck, with 460+ pages of just pictures.  If you have read his earlier Caldecott award-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret* (basis of the recent movie Hugo), you will recognize Selznick’s intricate black & white drawings.  In Wonderstruck, however, he takes the marriage of illustration and text to a whole new level.

Wonderstruck tells the separate, gradually intertwining stories of two young people, Ben and Rose, each of whom is desperately seeking something.  Ben’s story, told in words, begins in 1977, when his mother passes away.  Among her belongings he finds a tantalizing clue that may lead him to the father he has never known.  So without telling his aunt and uncle with whom he’s staying, he sets out on a journey that will take him to New York City.

Rose’s tale begins in 1927, and is told entirely in pictures.  She, too, sets out on a journey, and through the detailed illustrations you gradually piece together the mystery of who she is and what she’s seeking.  Though 50 years apart, the two stories weave together, converging until … well, it’s a happy ending, but the rest you’ll have to discover yourself.

The story of Wonderstruck is good, but the WAY the story is told is amazing.  The two stories, the pictures and text, are interwoven so well, each providing clues to what’s going on in the other.  For me there were lots of “Aha!” moments as bits of the plot fell into place, as details in both the text and pictures suddenly made sense.  If you like puzzles to solve and pictures that invite exploration, Wonderstruck is a good choice.  (And don’t let the 2½ pounds of book scare you.)

*and if you haven’t, why not?

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