Wonderstruck

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Wonderstruck Book Poster Image
Inventive story of runaways in New York, 50 years apart.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

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.

Language
Consumerism
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.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJanelle Brin April 3, 2016

A great family time book.

This is an excellent book to share with your family. This book is perfect for the entire family. This is something you can really sink your teeth into and be c... Continue reading
Adult Written byshanerocks April 6, 2012

Great! An awesome follow-up to Hugo Cabret!

This book is Brian Selnick's BEST book! It's even better than Hugo Cabret! But Hugo Cabret is still a GREAT book!
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 charac... Continue reading
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.... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love stories about growing up

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate