Wonderstruck features parallel narratives that later intersect in a heartwarming story about family. Ben feels alone since his mother died, and he has to live with an aunt and uncle who don’t seem to want him. Deaf in one ear, Ben loses his hearing entirely in an accident in the course of the story. Armed with only a few items he has found and lacking the ability to hear, Ben sets off in search of the father he never knew. Fifty years earlier, Rose lives with her father, and must work with a tutor she dislikes due to her deafness. She pines over one particular movie starlet as she gazes across the water to New York City. Both alone and unable to hear, Rose and Ben meet under the most unlikely of circumstances and find kindred spirits in one another.
I hadn’t read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, so Wonderstruck was an entirely new experience for me. I quickly became charmed by the alternating narratives told in text and image, and the story went by very quickly for me. I also thought that the images representing Rose’s story worked very well, because it was able to better represent her experiences as a deaf child who seemed to experience the world largely through what she saw around her rather than the words that were spoken to her.
Selznick does a great job with characterization in this story. I was particularly impressed with how fully formed Rose was, even though for the first bit of the book we only saw her through glimpses.
Much of this book revolves around museums, collecting, and curating. I think this is both an educational idea, and a really fun one for kids who will read this. Museums are fun, and almost all of us collect items that are dear to us and represent something throughout our lives. To show the connection between the two might go a long way toward encouraging young readers to take up an interest in history, art, and themselves.
I did pass this book on to my 4th grade sister, and can’t wait to see what she thinks of it. Her eyes lit up when she first started flipping through it, and I feel confident that she’ll enjoy the experience of reading this book.