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Brian Selznick
ISBN 9780545027892
Scholastic Press, 2011.
2012 Schneider Family Book Award
5 stars
Keywords: adventure brian-selznick collecting curating deaf-community historical-fiction new-york-city wonderstruck

by Brian Selznick

With this brilliantly constructed novel, told alternately in prose and visual sequences, Brian Selznick may have topped even his Caldecott Medal–winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Here he tells the story of 12-year-old Ben Wilson in words, and the story of 12-year-old Rose Kincaid in images. When the two stories—which begin 50 years apart—join, their convergence delivers an intense emotional impact.

Although Ben’s story unfolds in prose in 1977, it begins in images, with a dream of two wolves chasing him that unfolds as if through film stills. The camera zooms in on the alpha wolf, then its face, and closes in on the reflected light of one wolf’s eye. This bright light connects with Ben’s love of the stars. Ben’s mother told him that “he’d never be lost as long as he could find the North Star.” But after her death, he stopped believing it. The first image in Rose’s story is the light in the eyes of a glamorous-looking woman dressed in 1927 fashion. The camera lens then widens to reveal she is Lillian Mayhew, one of “Today’s Stars,” in MovieStar Magazine. We soon  learn that Mayhew is Rose’s mother, and that  her story unfolds wordlessly because Rose is deaf. A series of events leads both Ben and Rose to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Like an intricate mosaic, Selznick’s subtle patterns connect elements of Ben and Rose’s lives in a master design. The way Selznick bridges their stories over half a century will leave you wonderstruck.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

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