Scholastic Press, 2011. 978-0-545-02789-2
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Rose Kincaid is a deaf girl from New Jersey who loves films, but she doesn’t get to go watch them because of her strict father won’t let her out of the house. Twelve-year-old Ben Wilson lives in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota with his aunt and uncle after his mother dies in a traffic accident. When he looks though her things, he find s bookmark with an address in New York that he thinks might be where his father is. Fifty years apart, Rose and Ben run away to New York in hopes of making their dreams come true and their lives become intertwined in unexpected ways.
Why I picked it up: I purchased this book not long after I got The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but like many of my other books, it just sort of sat in my ‘to be read’ pile for months. I loved the storytelling format in Hugo Cabret so much that I was eager to read this book.
Why I finished it: Telling two different stories in the same book can be tricky, especially when tey are taking place not only fifty years apart, but dealing with two different plotlines that at the start do not seem to intersect at all. Selznick’s way of avoiding the complication is by presenting Rose’s story in drawings and Ben’s story in traditional text, which I thought rather appropriate given that Rose is deaf and unable to lip read or sign. The book was powerful for me particularly because I do not understand a whole lot about the deaf or Deaf culture, and this gave an illuminating look into the kind of struggles they deal with in a world of hearing persons. The beauty of the story is, for me, in the format, and Selznick once again delights readers with his monochrome drawings that I felt sort of expressed the helplessness of Ben and Rose as they are learning to navigate the world and find a place where they belong. In Wonderstruck, we are very much focused on the characters and what drives them: Rose’s scrapbook of a famous actor gives her hope that there is someone out there who will not belittle her because she is deaf; Ben’s discovery of the bookmark with his father’s name and address gives him hope that he has family out there who won’t think of him as a burden. I liked how Selznick tied everything together at the close – bittersweet but happy – and the satisfaction Ben and Rose have found in their respective journeys.
Other related materials: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick; The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick; The Boy of a Thousand Faces by Brian Selznick; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg; Handtalk: An ABC of Finger Spelling & Sign Language by Remy Charlip, Mary Beth Miller & George Acona; The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin; The Handmade Counting Book by Laura Rankin; Call Me Ahnighto by Pam Conrad & Richard Egielski; My Daniel by Pam Conrad; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin