This doorstep of a book hides an exciting secret – it’s actually two stories, set 50 years apart, and much of it is illustrated.
One tale is told via conventional text, but the other unfolds entirely in black and white line drawings, one per spread, with rapid page turns giving the impression of a silent film – an appropriate medium for a book in which absence of sound is such a major theme.
Rose’s mother Lillian is a filmstar whose career has taken her a long way from the house where Rose is dreaming of escape. It’s 1927 and the talkies are transforming cinema.
Determined to gain her independence, Rose sets off to find her mother, who’s starring in a New York show. But Rose is deaf, and Lillian isn’t pleased to see her out alone…
Some 50 years later, Ben is also making his way into the same city, searching for a father he’s never known. Following an accident, he, too, is deaf – the first of many connections between him and Rose.
Both children’s stories take them to the same museum, where their paths weave in and out until the years between them seem to be collapsing. At last their stories become one and we discover the profoundly satisfying way in which they’re linked.
Even though we know Selznick planned every aspect of this book’s construction, these clues and connections still strike us as wonderful coincidences.
Rose and Ben share more than their DNA – there are objects that link them, too, and the safekeeping and passing-on of memories and meanings is another key theme of this book.
Selznick uses the museum as a way of exploring these ideas, which emerge in ways that make sense to children and to which they can relate.
Accessible, eye-opening and involving, Wonderstruck races along, ensuring we always want to know what happens next.
But there are concepts here that set our hearts searching and our minds whirring; ideas about memory and community, about collecting and making sense of evidence, about forging new identities help to make this book such a richly satisfying starting point for cross-curricular activities.
Selznick is one of the most celebrated creators of children’s books in the US, whose work includes The Invention of Hugo Cabret, for which he won the 2008 Caldecott Medal.
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