Friday, September 23, 2011

The Beauty of Wonderstruck!

This is a very ‘special’ review for this reviewer to compose. Reason being…I have come across a book that is not a ‘book;’ it is a definitive, stunning work of art. Not only that, but the subject matter spoke to me on such a personal level, that I was completely engaged, enraptured, and so drawn in to the text and the pictures that I literally could not put the book down.

This is a very ‘special’ review for this reviewer to compose. Reason being…I have come across a book that is not a ‘book;’ it is a definitive, stunning work of art. Not only that, but the subject matter spoke to me on such a personal level, that I was completely engaged, enraptured, and so drawn in to the text and the pictures that I literally could not put the book down.


This amazing tale is told in two different ways - visually, with stunning hand-drawn pictures, and in print. The story that is told in the former, is set in 1927, where a young deaf girl named Rose lives in Hoboken, New Jersey with her father. The one thing Rose sincerely loves to do is make buildings out of paper and books that she has cut up. The buildings that she creates are the ones she sees out her window every day, standing in the location that she desperately wants to visit - the absolutely stunning, New York City. Rose wants nothing more than to go over the river and into the City to stare at those amazing lights and buildings up close, but people are too worried that a deaf girl in the City could get hurt.  However, Rose has a family member over there who is about to open in a Broadway play. Rose wants nothing more than to get to her, and running away seems to be the only viable option.

As the ‘text’ enters the book, readers are brought into 1977, where there is a young boy named Ben who lives with his aunt, uncle and cousins on the shores of a lake in Minnesota that was made from a meteorite hitting the area thousands of years ago.  Ben’s mother was the town’s librarian and she loved her books, research and - most importantly - her son. But Ben’s mother also had a secret. When Ben discovers an old book in her bureau drawer titled, Wonderstruck, with a bookmark and an inscription etched inside, the strange treasure leads him to pack his things and head for New York City - to the Museum of Natural History. This is such an outstandingly amazing story that I am not going to give away anything about Ben and Rose’s separate adventures. In fact, they are so detailed and richly perfect that all readers should begin ‘fresh’ and clean with this story; that way they can experience all the wonder and magic this author has created, and discover the link that 1927 and 1977 ultimately have.

The illustrations are so vivid, and so true to life, that the author should win every literary award possible.  New York City has always been its own mystery; since the beginning of time, this is the location that holds the most wonder and awe that any place could ever entertain. In fact, NYC IS its own ‘cabinet of wonders’ - something that the Museum of Natural History used to put on display.  From the old advertisements on billboards in 1927, that are hand-drawn to perfection, to the 1977 subway with the wall decorated with the poster of what would soon become the movie hit of the century titled, Star Wars, this author has researched his heart out, and built a story upon this majestic location where two young kids who, in different time periods, went on their own incredible journeys.

The pictures of the inside of the Museum of Natural History simply bring back memories for this writer.  The huge whale hanging from the ceiling causing the humongous shadow on the floor; to the mighty T-Rex with jaws open and small ‘arms’ open wide as if trying to get you as you run by, brings home the fact that I am not in NYC to enjoy these sites on a daily basis.

The most extraordinary picture and amazing part of this story is when readers see the Panorama that was made for the 1964 World’s Fair, which was held in Queens. A scale model of NYC was made with all the parks, bridges, and buildings represented. All five boroughs with the 895,000 buildings that were there at the time were made with loving care; the Panorama ended up to be over 10,000 square feet, and was the largest architectural model ever built.  This still remains at the Queens Museum of Art, where people work to constantly change and update the buildings as they are torn down or built up.  (One of the most emotional moments is when a reader stares at this hand-drawn picture and sees the largest buildings towering over the City - The World Trade Center in all its glory).

Walking the paths that Rose takes in 1927, and Ben takes in 1977, is a ‘gift’ for any reader. This amazing writer has produced a story of mystery, family, love, faith, and miracles, making sure that we all know if you search hard enough for something it will be found. He shines the light on Deaf culture, as well as explaining how a person can finally find a place where they truly belong. And the spotlight shines brightly on the amazing skyline of NYC.

A long time ago I walked the halls of the Museum of Natural History when I was far too young to ‘get’ the monumental beauty that it provides. I have wanted to go back to NYC as an adult and have dreamed and wished for that opportunity for the past thirty years.  I want more than anything to walk between Patience and Fortitude and sit in the New York Public Library and soak in the majesty; I want to go to the Museum and stand in the shadow of that gigantic whale once again…and dream; and I want to stand on top of The Empire State Building at night and watch all the brilliant lights come on across the City, and wonder what all the people are doing out there - if they are reading this book and nodding their heads as they once again realize that they are the luckiest people on Earth to be living in their amazing world.

This author is the creator of the Caldecott Medal Winner - “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” so it is not a shock really to see that he has now created one of - if not the best book I have read this year - or, perhaps any year. 

Even though my chances are improbable at best, I hope with my whole heart that I can see NYC again one day; that is my wish on the North Star. On a personal level, I want to thank this author. As you will all soon see, he has put so much into this book that will cause you to feel enlightened, uplifted, happy and - quite frankly - Wonderstruck!


(Wonderstruck, By: Brian Selznick; ISBN: 978-0-545-02789-2)