Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review of "Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick!

It has been way too long since I have been able to sit down and ramble on about books and teaching.  As you can imagine, military spouses sometimes feel more like single moms than married ones.  Its been like that around here lately.  Not to mention bouts of the flu and strep throat. 

I haven't been able to stick with a new book lately.  I don't seem to have the concentration.  I read a chapter or two, then the books sits and sits until I forget what I read.  Well, my daughter dug out my copy of Brian Selznick's latest book "Wonderstruck" from the bottom of her book bin.  (She's not even two, so I am not exactly sure how it got in her book bin.)

Let me just start by saying that Brian Selznick is a genius!  His giant chapter books are half pictures.  No, not just pictures, the pictures tell the story.  They MOVE the story forward!  I've never seen anything quite like it.  I first discovered Selznick's work when "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" came out.  I bought it at our school book fair.  I bought it to use as a lesson in how to pick out books for some 3rd and 4th grade struggling readers (basically, it was a room of kids that hate reading).  We ended up reading the book in class every Friday.  As we reached the end of "Hugo," a Friday field trip was scheduled and one boy, who particularly hated reading, requested to skip the field trip so he could find out what happened at the end of the book!  (Don't worry, we finished the book the following week.)

Don't tell my husband, but I wasn't a great fan of the movie "Hugo."  It was beautiful like Selznick's drawings, but the magic of the story got lost in translation to the big screen.  I made my husband go see it in the theater, he of course hated it.  He thought it was boring.  It was, but I'll never admit it to him.

After reading "Hugo," I searched for more Selznick books and discovered "The Houdini Box."  I think this is my favorite.  I taught some 3rd grade lessons using this book.  I cry a little every time I read it to my students.  Selznick gets it.  He is a master of communicating emotions.  Something that many elementary students could use a few lessons in.  Mr. Selznick, if you every read this post:  PLEASE write a few more shorter picture books like "The Houdini Box!" 

So now we arrive at "Wonderstruck."  "Wonderstruck" was just as easy to read as "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."  I read it in one night.  It felt shorter than "Hugo" felt.  I was more disappointed when the book ended.  I wanted to know more about the characters.  It was still a satisfying ending.

The story follows two characters, a boy and a girl.  The boy, Ben, has just lost his mother and spends the books trying to figure out the story of his father.  The girl, Rose, is deaf.  Rose's story if more of a mystery, since her story is primarily told in pictures.  Rose's pictures and Ben's prose intertwine as the mysteries deepen. 

As "Hugo" pays tribute to the silent movie era, "Wonderstruck" explores the both early museums as well as, the Deaf culture.  But primarily this is a story of family and love. 

Did I mention it made me cry?

I really hate reviews that give away the story, and I just can't do that to this story.  Just trust me and read it!  Or any of Brian Selznick's wonderful books... it doesn't matter which one, they're all good!

The publisher's recommended reading age is 9+ and 4th grade and up.  I believe that is probably a good suggestion for independent reading.  If you are a parent and are thinking of reading this to your child, I think 3rd grade would be an appropriate listening age.

Get the book from amazon here .

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