Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck. New York: Scholastic Press, 2011. ISBN 9780545027892
Wonderstruck is a novel that follows two different deaf children, Ben in 1977 and Rose in 1927. Ben’s story is told in words, while Rose’s is completely told in pictures. While this seems like a great concept, it actually makes for a confusing read. The images and words seem to have nothing to do with each other and the jarring disconnect makes it difficult to care for either character. While Selznick does manage to weave it all together in the end, there are some holes that while not impossible, seem improbable (beginning with a newly deafened boy getting out of the hospital and onto a bus at night).
While Ben’s story is mostly straightforward (with a lot of convenient situations), Rose’s story (told only in pictures) is both confusing and more detailed. Selznick captures both her wonder and fear of being alone in New York City. In fact, because of the lack of words to tell the story, the reader feels deaf in Rose’s world. Surprisingly, the most powerful (and believable) story is that of Ben’s father, as told by Rose.
While both middle school and high school students can understand the language, due to the format, it may be easier for an older teen to piece the story together. It could be studied along with other novels or essays about people with disabilities, but I wouldn’t suggest it to be used by itself in a classroom.
Cybil Award-2012 (Finalist Graphic Novel for Elementary and Middle Grades)
Booklist—“Selznick plays with a plethora of interwoven themes, including deafness and silence, the ability to see and value the world, family, and the interconnectedness of life.”
Kirkus—“Readers know that the two stories will converge, but Selznick keeps them guessing, cutting back and forth with expert precision. Both children leave their unhappy homes and head to New York City, Ben hoping to find his father and the girl also in search of family. The girl, readers learn, is deaf; her silent world is brilliantly evoked in wordless sequences, while Ben’s story unfolds in prose.”
Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. July 2011. (Vol. 79, No. 13). Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=9780545027892
Rutan, Lynn. Booklist. August 2011. (Vol. 107, No. 22). Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=9780545027892