My first impression of Wonderstruck was that it was painful. Seriously: physically painful. With arthritis in my hands, holding open a book of this size was difficult, but the wonder of the story was worth every moment, and I did read it in one long sitting.
Like The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007), Wonderstruck is both written and drawn. In Wonderstruck, though, Selznick has worked with time and dreamscape to create two separate storylines—one written, one drawn—which ultimately coalesce, leaving the reader with a strong sense of satisfaction in knowing the truth that has slowly been developing through the asymptotically approaching plotlines. Ben lives in the woods of Minnesota in 1977; Rose lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1927. Ben lives with one deaf ear, and suffers an accident which temporarily causes him to lose hearing in the other ear; Rose is deaf, and lives at the moment when silent film was transitioning to the “talkies.” Both children share a need to belong, and this need carries them to New York, where their two stories merge together at the “Cabinet of Wonders” at the American Museum of Natural History. As Ben unravels the secrets of his past, he enters Rose’s drawn world; it is as powerful as the wardrobe into Narnia, for readers now see Ben, and the older Rose, and both of their searches end happily.
Selznick has created another masterpiece, more effective, I think, than Hugo Cabret before it. The illustration is equally superb, but the narrative structure of Wonderstruck is superior. To this, add the sense of fateful coincidence—of nothing really being coincidence—that Blue Balliett plays with so successfully in Chasing Vermeer (2004), and we have in our hands another spectacular novel that will engage readers of all ages