Wonder Strikes Twice

Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press, 2011

Selznick is the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the adaptation of which, "Hugo" is in theaters as of this writing. Wonderstruck uses the same "novel in words and pictures" format as Cabret, but employs it in a much more calculated way. Where Cabret flowed back and forth between text and picture pages within a single narrative, Wonderstruck uses them to tell analogous narratives about a boy named Ben in Gunflint Lake, Wisconsin in 1977 (words) and a girl named Rose in 1927 (pictures).

Both Ben and Rose travel alone to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in search of lost parents, which ultimately represent searches for themselves. Selznick used the images in Cabret to make the action more immediate and to capture the reader in frozen moments of wordless wonder, where Wondestruck (title notwithstanding) uses the pictures to separate the narratives as well as adding a deeper layer of shared experience to Rose's tale. I don't want to over-explain that because I'd rather have it open up to you slowly as a reader.

Much as Cabret used a love letter approach to early film history as catalyst for a quest tale, Wonderstruck wraps itself deeply in a merged museophilia/bibliophilia like an heirloom comforter. It's a very learning-positive air, and one that parents aiming to instill such attitudes in their children will appreciate for its tasteful, authentic approach. Don't get the idea it's a drily intellectual work, however. The book is filled with emotional highs and lows, creating unique experiences for the reader to share. Many of the same themes resonate through both books, but Wonderstruck may well be the better crafted narrative. Such choices are pointless, however, as both books and the film are all top-drawer additions to the narrative arts.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the movie, Hugo; but then you know that too.