Children's Book Department
Emily G. graduated from college with a degree in Film and Media Studies and a keen interest in children’s literature. These somewhat divergent interests led her to New York City, where, when not embarking upon peregrinations about the city, she spends far too much of her time collecting Caldecott Award-winning books, copies of Jane Eyre, piquant recipes, delicious words, and way too much ephemera from all the places she’s been.
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Wonderstruck is a book that in many ways continues what Brian Selznick started with his 2008 Caldecott Medal-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Wonderstruck, like Hugo Cabret, is a cinematic book—not only in the gorgeous and wholly unique synthesis of word and illustration, but also in its contextual interest in the history of film. While Hugo Cabret dwells on the magic of earliest cinema, one storyline in Wonderstruck explores the transition from silent film to sound through the eyes of a deaf girl. Such a subtext is perfect in a book told in two such parallel storylines—one storyline told in words, one in pictures. Selznick tells the deaf girl’s story using almost entirely hundreds of luminous black and white pencil sketches: her story plays out like a silent film.
Seeing the transition from silent to sound film unfold through the eyes of an early twentieth century deaf girl gives readers a whole new perspective on that moment in history. But the exploration of cinematic history is not the focus of this book in the same way that it was the focus of Hugo Cabret. While both books do share the same themes of gaining a sense of belonging and discovering one’s place in the world, Wonderstruck has many fascinating layers aside from the cinematic. New York City history, deaf culture, and the fascinating story of the American Museum of Natural History are all dimensions of this well-crafted and visually captivating narrative.
Such a unique array of themes and subplots render this a book that refreshes our perspective on how we see and hear our world and the people that inhabit it. This book is indeed a wonder to behold in its varying shades—thematic and artistic—of black and white, light and sound.
One wonders if Selznick’s next book might perhaps include a narrative commentary on the advent of color cinema?