A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in this follow-up to his Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick crafts two concurrent stories 50 years apart, one in words and one in pictures, that unfold and ultimately converge. Protagonists Rose and Ben are both deaf. There's a lot going on, and the early pictures offer visual clues to later plot developments and rich with subtle commentary that will reward plenty of return visits. Some of the beautifully drawn black-and-white images convey Rose's terror at being caught in a storm, while others find her dwarfed by scary-looking skeletons and curios in a spooky-looking museum hall. If your child is still at a point where this might be nightmare fodder, be aware.
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What's the story?
There are two stories, one in words, one in beautifully drawn pictures. The former finds 12-year-old Ben in 1977 Minnesota, newly orphaned by the death of his free-spirited librarian mom and troubled by dreams of wolves. The latter concerns 12-year-old Rose, in 1927, tending her movie-star scrapbook and gazing longingly at the New York skyline. Both pack their treasured belongings, flee to New York, and ultimately find themselves at the American Museum of Natural History, which plays a vital role in connecting them to people with whom they're going to share many things in their lives. There are many missteps, scary interludes, great revelations, and sweet moments along the way.
Is it any good?
WONDERSTRUCK is visually gorgeous and emotionally satisfying and will leave readers quite fond of the characters. The issue of Ben and Rose's deafness is a strong theme; it's presented with complexity and a strong emphasis on the practical, which both deaf and hearing kids of today may find thought-provoking. The novel is not afraid to delve into the esoteric, so some of the specifics may not be every kid's dish. While the theme of finding your own people, the ones who understand you and share your interests, is pretty universal (what kid cannot relate to Harry's joy at landing at Hogwarts after life among the Muggles?), not every kid will share Ben and Rose's passion for curating per se.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about running away from home, which is an integral part of this book. Why do Ben and Rose run away? Do you think they had any other choice? Were they lucky things turned out so well? What might have happened to them today?
What does Wonderstruck show about how friends and family members treat one another?
Rose and Ben are both deaf. Do you know any deaf people? Can you talk to them in American Sign Language?
What's your favorite museum?
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