Wonderstruck is nothing short of brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed Hugo Cabret (also by Selznick) but Wonderstruck is even better. The story is told in dual narratives–one in words set in 1977 and one in pictures set in New York City in 1927.
Rose is a young deaf girl in 1927 New York City, locked in the prison of both her deafness and her family’s inability to understand it and nurture the rest of her body and soul. Her father is distant and her mother has abandoned the family for a career and a new love. Rose strikes out on her own, searching for some sort of freedom and sense of belonging.
Ben has just lost his mother to a car accident in Minnesota in 1977 and had to move in with his aunt and uncle. Having lost his mother, Ben wonders more frequently about his father. Ben finds a clue to both his father’s identity and his location as he wanders through the empty house in which he had lived with his mother. Deaf in one ear since birth, Ben calls the phone number he finds only to have a lightning strike travel through the phone line and result in total deafness. After recovering in the hospital Ben decides to pursue the clues he has found about his father and sets out on his own journey.
The stories of the two children, abandoned and following their own journeys of hope and desperation merge eventually to finish the narrative as one.
For me, the fact that Ben has grown up on the Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota is fun since I spent many summer weeks there growing up on family camping trips. Except for the extraordinary wall of mosquitos, it’s one of my very favorite northern Minnesota locations and it gave me a little thrill to see Ben there. The research Selznick did on 1927 New York City, “cabinets of wonder” and Deaf Culture are evident in every detail of the story without hitting the reader over the head with his knowledge.
I recommend this book HIGHLY as both an independent and read-aloud suggestion. Although the picture narrative may seem troublesome in a read-aloud situation (and I have not yet tried it out in that forum) my daughter’s 2nd Grade teacher read both Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck aloud to her classroom and captivated the students. My daughter has already re-read Hugo Cabret four times on her own because she loved it so much.
The waiting list for Wonderstruck at the library is loooong. I was number 44 when I got on the list. It was worth every second of the wait! Read Wonderstruck!!!! You will be grateful for the experience.