Canterbury Bells

Canterbury Bells
Canterbury Bells represent Gratitude in the Language of Flowers

Thursday, March 22, 2012


This review of Wonderstruck is dedicated to young readers... and to adults who love to put wonderful books into the hands of children. With summer vacation starting soon, this might be just the book to keep your children reading, not because they have to, but because they want to.  I can almost guarantee you they won’t be disappointed nor will you if you read Wonderstruck along with your child.

As way of background, you have by now (unless you live under a rock) probably heard of the movie, Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese which captured five Academy Awards this year.

The movie Hugo was based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Because it has already received so much publicity, I choose instead to review Selznick’s second book, Wonder Struck (2011). It’s a wonderful gift for any young adult reader who wants to be transported to a magical time and place.

Although at first glance it appears pricey (still in hardcover at $20.00+) it is however worth the price with 637 pages (over 450 illustrations) and weighing in at 2.8 pounds (really).  And how can one put a price tag on creating a love for reading or witnessing a child’s eagerness to turn the page to see what happens next? 

What they will also see are beautiful and detailed pencil illustrations.  Over half the story is told through these sketches, with Rose, beginning in 1927. The second story is Ben’s, told in words, beginning in 1977.  How these two stories and characters, fifty years apart, come together make for a fascinating adventure.

What they have in common is they both wish their lives were different.  They are both searching for certain people and as the author says, “...they are two kids trying to find the place where they belong in the world.” And aren’t we all?  It is this universal theme that make this book not only a delight for children but any adult who appreciates a timeless story.

Children, parents and teachers might enjoy visiting the website at  It contains a video interview with author Brian Selznick who tells us about his research process which is a great incentive for children. This book was a joy, a challenge, and a puzzle to put together. I hope you enjoy meeting Ben and Rose, and joining them on their thrilling, dangerous and unexpected adventures in New York City.”

 Other resources on the website include twelve essays about Wonderstruck, including one from E Konigsburg who wrote From the Crazy Mixed up Files of Mrs.Basil E. Frankweiler, the 1968 Newberry Award winner.

 In his acknowledgements, Selznick says he owes a great debt of gratitude to Konigsburg. To pay that debt he fills Wonderstruck with references to  her book and a New York museum is also critical to his story.  If your child has read the Crazy Files it might be fun to see how many of these references they can spot--a little treasure hunt to add to the enjoyment of this book.

I would not be surprised if, like Hugo, Wonderstruck will be coming to a theatre near you someday.  In the mean time, you might want to capture this special wonder in a book.

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