When I found out Brian Selznick, author and artist of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, had a new book out I immediately requested it from the library. Me and a bunch of other people. Finally, it was my turn. I liked Hugo Cabret quite a lot and worried it would be hard for Selznick to follow it up with anything as good. I am happy to report that Wonderstruck is just as delightful.
Wonderstruck is not your typical graphic novel in which traditional comic format prevails with words and art on the same page. Selznick separates the words and the pictures, and in the case of Wonderstruck the pictures tell a different story than the text narrative for about two-thirds of the book when both stories meet and merge into the same storyline. The pictures tell the story of Rose and the text tells the story of Ben. There is a wonderful parallel between the two stories and a happy twist when they merge.
Ben lives with his aunt and uncle and cousin at Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. I have never been to Gunflint Lake but it is part of the Boundary Waters and reportedly gorgeous. The border between Minnesota and Canada goes through the middle of the lake. I don’t know about from the Canadian side, but from the Minnesota side it is a popular place to go to get away from it all.
Anyway, Ben is about 11-years-old, has never known his father or even who he is, and his mom recently died. His mom’s house is not far from his aunt and uncle’s and one evening he returns to it for the first time since his mother’s death and discovers his mom’s rainy day fund and the name and photo of a man who is probably his father. There is even an address in New York City. One thing leads to another and Ben runs away to New York to try and find his father. And while his adventure is the kind that seldom happens in real life, it is a sweet story nonetheless. But not syrupy sweet. Just sweet enough to make you smile and wish that life were really like that.
The art is beautifully rendered in detailed pencil drawing. Rose’s story is so well executed that not once did I wish for words. The pictures in this case do all the talking. And when Rose’s and Ben’s stories merge, they do so naturally without any sort of jarring transition.
If you liked Hugo Cabret you will not be disappointed in Wonderstruck. If you haven’t read either of them, get yourself off to the library! You are in for a treat.