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Inventive story of runaways in New York, 50 years apart.

What parents need to know

Educational value

The characters' adventures offer enticing trailheads for exploring paths as varied as New York City, natural history museums, and deaf culture.

Positive messages

Wonderstruck delivers a powerful message about the bond of family and friendship and its endurance through time, space, and miscommunication. Not that the path isn't sometimes harrowing from a parent's point of view, as both plots involve 12-year-olds running away from home to New York City, one in 1927, one 50 years later, and the realities they encounter, while sometimes scary, are a good deal more benign than what a similarly-minded kid would experience today.

Positive role models

The book offers many positive examples of loving family members and friends, and shows how the bond between them helps the characters overcome dangers and difficulties. Rose's brother Walter is an especially shining example, and Ben's late mother, seen only in retrospect, was clearly just the parent he needed. Ben and Rose themselves are also positive in their devotion to their loved ones, as well as in their tenacity and determination to define themselves.


While there are some allusions to the perils that may befall a child in the city, the worst thing that actually occurs is that Ben has all his money stolen almost as soon as he arrives.


Rose's mother, an actress, is a scandalous figure in 1927 because she's divorced, having ditched her doctor husband for a young actor named Percy. Ben is the result of a brief romance in 1964 between the town librarian in Gunflint Lake, Minn., and a visiting museum curator.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Ben's late mother smoked; he is startled and appalled to find his teen cousin Janet wearing her clothes and smoking her cigarettes one night.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Brian Selznick
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:September 13, 2011
Number of pages:608
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySweetDisposition November 19, 2011

Selznick wows me once again.

I love Mr. Selznick's writing. His characters strive to learn more about certain topics, and tend to be quite clever and crafty. Combine interesting characters with lovely illustration, and you've got Wonderstruck! The story centers around the stories of Rose and Ben, which are set 50 years apart. They are both deaf, but that isn't the book's main focus. In 1927, Rose keeps a scrapbook of a famous actress, who happens to be her mother. She attempts to keep track of her every movement in the public eye. In 1977, Ben is searching for clues of his mysterious father following his mother's death. Ben has never met his father, and has hopes of finally meeting him. I enjoyed Wonderstruck quite a lot, and I highly recommend it.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byVickyLOVEbooks December 17, 2011

Wonderstruck Review by ParentzCare

I think it is a pretty good book but it depends on the parents. I let my 11 year old daughter read it first when she was 10 and she had nightmares for a while. She read it again when she turned 11,and she handled it much better. I myself read it and thought it was very well written. I also think Mr.Selznick is a gifted writer. I think parents should NOT let their kids read the book before age 11. I highly recommend! 5 STAR!
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old March 8, 2012

okay book

This was an okay book. About the only thing I didn't like was about the deaf parts. The book made it sound like deaf people can only sign. This book is very similar to The Invention of Hugo Cabret in terms of the pictures.


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