Author: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic, 2011, 640 pages
Ben and Rose secretly wish for better lives. Ben longs for his unknown father. Rose scrapbooks a famous silent actress. When Ben finds clues and Rose reads enticing news, the children independently run to New York for what they are missing. Ben's story in words, Rose's in pictures, come together in deafness.
I read this book because it was a book of the month pick for the Great Middle Grade Reads group on Goodreads.com a few months ago. I had glanced at it at some point, and not been grabbed by it. But people's comments made me think I needed to look closer, and I'm glad I did. The book was not at all what I had expected (I had somehow--maybe from a few of the pictures that zoomed in on eyeballs--gotten the impression that the book was a fantasy). It is a magical story--but one completely grounded in the real world.
The structure of the book is a large part of what makes it magical. The two parallel threads are told, one in words, the other strictly in pictures, until they come together at the end and words and pictures meet. Rose's story, told in pictures, is surprisingly complete, with the addition of a few short notes (incorporated into the pictures). It can be read very quickly, but most of the pictures also reward a more careful study. Ben's story is very straight-forward, and the way the two connect is no surprise, but still a delight.
Like any good middle-grade book, this is a good read for all ages. But it may offer one thing for certain readers who struggle: it is a big, fat, impressive-looking book that is a great deal shorter than it looks! The written part is very easy to read, and broken into bits small enough to be managed by readers for whom it doesn't come easily, and the pictures of course tell their story to readers and non-readers alike. I could see this helping a struggling reader to gain confidence.
Full Disclosure: I checked Wonderstruck out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."