When Ursula Le Guin praises someone’s work, it’s time to…
Brian Selznick is so talented, it’s sickening. Seriously, could he make the rest of us feel even more inadequate? He can weave a great tale, but he can also draw beautifully. Thanks, Selznick, for making me feel like crap. But, yes, thank you for also making me love the stories you tell.
I only read The Invention of Hugo Cabret last year, but it was one of my favorites and it was clear to see how it could win the Caldecott, even if some people think it shouldn’t have won a picture book award when it’s only half picture book. Get over it, people, the pictures were gorgeous.
They are just as gorgeous in Selznick’s latest masterpiece, Wonderstruck. What’s different in Wonderstruck is that the written tale and the tale told through pictures are two separate stories and take place decades apart even though they are woven together throughout the book.
The written tale is about Ben, a kid growing up in Minnesota in the late 1970s who is trying to overcome the loss of his mother. Ben is deaf in one ear and longs for a connection to his mother, even if it means running away to New York to try to find his father whom he has never met.
The tale told through pictures is about Rose, a kid growing up in the late 1920s in New York. Rose longs for more in her life and for comfort she loses herself in picture shows. She even keeps a scrapbook of her favorite actress, but like Ben, she embarks on a journey when she sees a newspaper headline with news she is not excited about.
I can’t tell you more or I’ll give too much away, but I can say that I finished this 600-page book in one sitting because it was so great. Keep in mind that at least half of it is purely pictures, so I’m not a speed reader. It was just so good that I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
While the written tale is great, what made me love Wonderstruck so much is the same thing that made me love Hugo – the artwork. I am not a artist or connoisseur who can speak about the validity and technique of Selznick’s drawings, but as a reader I can say that the artwork is beautiful, surprising, and smart. I love how Selznick shows a story. I love how he takes multiple pages to show a large scene and zoom in on what he needs you to notice. Or how he starts extremely close on something, like an eyeball, and zooms out to show you the fright in someone’s face. Or how he gives you small pieces of a puzzle that you need to put together. I love when children’s authors expect children to be intelligent.
It’s another great book by Selznick, and I just assume all future books from him will be just as beautiful. He’s talented. Pay attention.