Brian Selznick has perfected his unique storytelling technique in Wonderstruck. He uses different mediums – words and images – to tell two seemingly independent stories that weave back and forth with mind-blow precision. In one story we meet Ben in 1970s Michigan; born deaf in one ear, morning the recent loss of his mother, living with his aunt and uncle, and he’s begun to unlock the mystery of who his father. The second story follows Rose in 1920s who feels suffocated at home in New Jersey and wants to meet silent film actress Lillian Mayhew in New York City.
The stories run parallel though they exist decades apart: both main characters are around the same age, both are looking for the place where they feel they belong, and are facing the same physical obstacle.
I really loved the illustrations and thought they reflected aspects of silent films that Selznick clearly admires – the story progresses through characters expressions and actions instead of words. Another aspect I was thrilled to see was the way Selznick meandered between the illustrations and words: in Rose’s story a silent film shows a flash of lightning and the next pages begins by describing bone shaking thunder in Ben’s world. Taking cues from one story and connecting them to the other bound the two storylines together making them feel less like two individual stories and more like one story told with two voices and Selznick furthered this idea by eventually connecting Rose and Ben.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it was beautifully done – don’t be intimidated by the thickness, it’s a book that can easily be read in 3 hours on a cozy, rainy afternoon – and the illustrations alone are worth it!