BOOK REVIEW: Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick

Released: September 13, 2011 (Scholastic)
Source: Library

Genre: YA Fantasy Graphic Novel

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From Brian Selznick, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, comes another breathtaking tour de force.

Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories–Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful–with over 460 pages of original artwork–Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

My Thoughts

After reading Selznick’s amazing novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I knew I had to read this one. I know of a few people who have read this and thought it was much, much better than Hugo, so I had to find out for myself.

Unfortunately, while I did like the book, it paled in comparison to Hugo!

Let’s start with what I loved. The whole outline of how the story is told, with main character Ben’s story being told in words, and a story about Rose from the 1920’s being told in pictures, was wonderful. The entire story flowed right from page one. There are no chapter breaks to break the flow, though the story is in three parts. 

As in Hugo, the artwork is stunning. I really love Selznick’s attention to detail and how each group of pictures is drawn in such a way that it’s easy for the reader to know what to focus on. There were a few fun pictures where it was like a Where’s Waldo? drawing as I had fun finding the main character, Rose, from that story in the drawings.

I also really loved the characters in this story. Rose, Ben, and even Jamie, are all so wonderful. Rose and Ben have their similarities with one another and they both come from broken homes. All three of them have such spirit and determination. They really were great characters to read about.

Now, what I didn’t like. I thought the story was told at quite a slow pace. I had an inkling of what was going to happen, but it took a while for it to be revealed. Also, while the second story in the book is told in pictures, all of those pictures are explained later in the book, which seems like a waste of space — why have the pictures if they’re just going to be explained and told in detail later?

Another thing I didn’t like was the absence of parents. In Hugo, this happens, too, but in that story, the main character is orphaned. His main parental figure dies and he’s left all alone. In Wonderstruck, the main character, Ben, is also left alone from a deceased parents, but he does have an aunt and uncle. I was skeptical about Ben going to New York City ALL ALONE and nothing happening to him. While I know that this is fiction, I fear that the message will get across to kids that they can run away and do all of the same things Ben does and still be safe.

Still, while I didn’t enjoy this story, I feel that Brian Selznick’s novels are ones that will stay with me for a long time. They are beautiful and memorable and would make a great gift for any reader.

If you enjoy something different, I would say give this one a read. The alternating between a story in words and a story in pictures is refreshing and Brian Selznick is a really wonderful artist. While it doesn’t quite match the calibre of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck is still a great story.

Read More Reviews

April’s Review
Joshua’s Review
Alison’s Review

© 2012, Reading In Winter. All rights reserved.


9 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick

  1. I had heard a lot of buzz for this book before I picked it up, so unfortunately, I didn’t love it as much as I hoped! I agree about the pictures- they were really wonderfully done! This was my first time ever reading a graphic novel (even though this was only in part a graphic novel), and it was really interesting to see a story told with pictures! Anyways, the pacing of the story was a bit slow as well for me. And some things were definitely unrealistic, especially with Ben.

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this book as much as Hugo, Kristilyn! I really do need to pick up Hugo, I’ve only see the movie. 😉 Anyways, fabulous review!

  2. I haven’t read anything by this author, while I don’t think his novels are really up my alley, all the pictures and the “Where’s Waldo” aspect you described sounds like it would make for a fun read. It’s too bad you didn’t enjoy this as much as his other work. Great review Kristilyn!

  3. I have yet toread either this or Hugo, but every time I go to Chapters I look at them. I just love the pictures! I did end up watching Hugo though.. whoops.. generally I wait until after reading the book.

    I think maybe they would be good books to pick up to read with Kailyn when she’s a bit older at bedtime. Since there are so many beautiful pictures!

  4. Pingback: Clock Rewinders (3) | Reading In Winter

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