Summary and book reviews of Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck

by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck
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  • Published:
    Sep 2011, 608 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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About this Book

Book Summary

Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

Rated Best Children's Book of 2011 by BookBrowse Members

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.

Excerpt: Wonderstruck

Ben leaned against Robby's windowsill until it made a red line across his chest. He watched the clouds roll in. He thought about the times when the aurora borealis, the northern lights, appeared in the night sky. Everyone along the lake would call one another, no matter what time it was, so they could watch the strange shimmering curtains vibrating above them. Even though his mom had quit smoking two summers ago, Ben vividly remembered the smell of her cigarettes as they stood outside. She'd cross her arms and blow the smoke out the side of her mouth. When the air was cold enough, Ben would cross his arms and blow his foggy breath out the side of his mouth as well, which always made her laugh. Then she would open her jacket so Ben could stand inside it with her, and for hours they would stare heavenward at the beautiful colors in the sky.

A sudden streak of light interrupted Ben's memory. Wide-eyed, he watched from the ledge of Robby's window as a shooting ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How does Ben feel about living with his aunt and uncle and sharing a room with his cousin? Describe his feelings when he finds Janet in his mother’s house at night. Why is he so affected by the locket and the book he finds in his mother’s room?

  2. What are the early connections between Ben’s story and Rose’s story? Discuss how those connections—the places where they feel trapped, their loneliness, the storms and lightning—help to illuminate and expand on the individual stories.

  3. Discuss the meaning of the quote Ben’s mother liked: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” How does the quote relate to each of the stories? How many ways does star imagery ...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2011

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this will be an instantly successful book for children and adults...It is built on the bones of several quite sturdy ideas—about deaf culture, about museums and collections, about missing parents and lonely, fiercely intelligent children—but it moves by emotion. Sometimes Selznick's art is dazzling in its textured complexity, as when he portrays the historically accurate interior of the AMNH, and other times, it is the simplicity of a single image that startles the eye and the heart. The end of the book is a pure triumph.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

Full Review Members Only (692 words).

Media Reviews

New York Times - Adam Gopnik

[E]ngrossing, intelligent, beautifully engineered and expertly told both in word and image.

NPR - Dan Kois

[E]verything, and everyone, has a proper place, Wonderstruck reassures readers; you just have to find it. 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.

School Library Journal

The dual text/illustration format is not a gimmick when used to tell the right stories; the combination provides an emotional experience that neither the words nor the illustrations could achieve on their own. Grades 4-8.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Visually stunning, completely compelling, Wonderstruck demonstrates a mastery and maturity that proves that, yes, lightning can strike twice. Ages 9+

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

Children's Literature

Selznick provides detailed, naturalistic, black pencil drawings that create gray, almost photographic scenes of buildings and people with a sense of mystery. We are swept into the powerful visual story as the point of view zooms in or out.

Reader Reviews

Lauren Kelly

Truly Outstanding
While I was reading "Wonderstruck", I finished the book (about 600 pages) in four hours because I could not put the book down. The way Ben connects to Rose is so amazing and uncanny, which I thought was great. Absolutely in the top three!

Sara Fletcher

WonderStruck
Wonderstruck is a amazing powerful sad book it's really interesting and I LOVE IT!

KerryAnna

Wonderstuck
I love this book it's one of my favorite books I ever read I just love it

katie

best book
I love the book my teacher is reading it to us it's the best one ever!

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Beyond the Book

Deaf Cinema

Brian Selznick has said that one of his inspirations for Wonderstruck was the documentary Through Deaf Eyes, and the knowledge that the transition from silent movies to "talkies" was disastrous for deaf people. Cinema had been a way for deaf people to record their stories in sign language, as well as participate in mass culture through  a shared visual medium. It gave deaf actors the opportunity to play both deaf and hearing characters. The Jazz Singer changed all of that in 1927. It was the first feature film with dialogue and singing synchronized with the action. By 1929, the transition to sound was mostly complete. Despite activism by the National Association for the Deaf, the Motion Picture Association of America does ...

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