Wonderstruck is a brilliant combination of quality literature and detailed charcoal pictures that tell two stories set fifty years apart. As I began reading the book, I was introduced to Ben, a partially deaf young boy who had recently lost his mother and didn’t know his father, who lived with his aunt and uncle. Ben lives in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. As I looked at the pictures, I did not realize how the pictures and the text went together. The pictures would resemble what had been read in the text, but a deaf, young girl was in the pictures instead of Ben. It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized how the text and pictures intertwined.
One night while Ben lay awake in his Bed, he looked at his house and noticed his mother’s bedroom light was on. He took a flashlight and headed towards the house, hoping it would be his mother. When he walked in the kitchen, Ben saw all his mother’s favorite quotes on the refrigerator. He could hear the radio and smell cigarette smoke. When he walked into the bedroom, he found his cousin trying on his mother’s clothes and smoking her cigarettes. Ben told his cousin to go home, and he stayed at the house for a while. He rummaged through his mother’s things and found money in a tin can, a book called Wonderstruck with a Kincaid Books bookmark that had an address, telephone number, and a message to his mom from a man named Danny, and a locket with a picture of a man named Daniel in it. Ben thought that perhaps Danny was his father, and he lives in New York City. Ben gathered the courage to dial the number he thought might be his father’s house, and …….
When Ben awoke, he realized he was in the hospital. He could not speak and he was completely deaf. His family explained to Ben that the house had been hit by lightning, and the current traveled through the wires and into the phone, which Ben happened to be holding at the time. Ben was transferred to Duluth Children’s Hospital to do further testing, and he ran away from the hospital, without telling his family, to go to New York to look for his father.
Once in New York, he goes to the address he believes is his father’s, but it isn’t. Ben then goes to the address of Kincaid Books, but the store is closed down. By this time, Ben is hot, tired, and frustrated. He whipped around and rushed towards the museum. In the movement, he must have dropped Wonderstruck because a boy picked it up and handed it to him. Ben went into the museum. While Ben marveled at the meteorite, he noticed a piece of folded paper on it. He got the paper and the paper read: What’s inside the box? At that moment Ben noticed his Wonder Box was missing. Also on the note was a map with an X marking a particular spot. Ben followed the map to that spot and ended up at the wolf diorama. The wolf diorama had been created in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, Ben’s hometown. He also found the boy there that had given him Wonderstruck outside of Kincaid Books. The boy, named Jamie, gave Ben his Museum Box back. Ben and Jamie were trying to talk, but an elderly lady with white hair was looking at the wolf diorama. They tried to wait until she left, but decided to leave and give her time with the wolves. Jamie led Ben to a storage room where their friendship blossomed, and the two revealed information about each other. Jamie’s dad works in the museum, so he leaves Ben there to sleep.
When Ben awoke, he wandered around the museum. He found himself always going back to the wolf diorama. Jamie would eventually come back and the two would wander the museum together, talking, laughing, and exploring new areas of the museum. As the two explored, they came upon a room filled with filing cabinets. Jamie went away to his mother’s house and was gone for two days, so Ben decided to look through the filing cabinets to find out information about the wolf diorama. After much time, he found a letter written to the Gunflint Lake librarian (his mother) from a man named Daniel Lobel, that explained that he and a group of colleagues were coming there to sketch and photograph the region and animal life of the region to make a diorama for an exhibit at the museum. Ben immediately knew this had to be his father and rushed out to the information desk of the museum to ask about his father, and he was acting so out-of-the-ordinary that the lady called security. Ben ran into another room where there were three workers, and he asked if they knew his father. Of course Ben couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he could tell they didn’t know his father. Ben ran into another room that looked so familiar the furniture, fabric, and floor. Ben realized this room was an illustration from Wonderstruck. As Ben tried to piece it all together, he drifted off to sleep.
He awoke as Jamie shook his foot. Ben proceeded to tell Jamie all the information he had gathered about his father. Ben also confronted Jamie about not telling him that Kincaid books had just moved, not closed down, but Jamie said he did tell him the day they met, he just didn’t know that Ben was deaf and couldn’t hear what he was saying. Ben was very angry and left.
Ben walked to Kincaid Books. He went inside, but didn’t see anybody for a few minutes. Then, he saw the elderly woman with the white hair he had seen at the wolf diorama at the museum with an elderly man. Ben, who had been sitting on the steps, got up to walk towards them, but tumbled down the steps. After making sure that Ben was alright, the woman noticed the locket around Ben’s neck, which had opened, exposing the picture of his father. The woman began crying, and wrote on paper asking if he was Ben. The woman, Rose, and her brother, Walter, asked about his mother and how he found them. Walter brought Ben something to eat, and Rose began to answer Ben’s questions.
Walter used to work in the museum before he opened Kincaid Books. He had given Rose Wonderstruck when she was young. Rose and her husband were both deaf, but their son, Danny, was a hearing baby. They loved Danny very much. Rose gave Danny Wonderstruck and signed it Love, M. M was for Mother. When Danny grew up, he was hired to work at the museum. He created dioramas, and as Ben already knew, he traveled to Gunflint Lake to prepare for the wolf exhibit. That is where Danny met Elaine, Ben’s Mother. Danny fell in love with Elaine immediately. He would write wonderful things about her to Rose. The only problem was that Danny would never move out of the city, and Elaine would never move away from Gunflint Lake. Danny had a heart condition, and died a few years after his return from Gunflint Lake. Elaine and Ben attended his funeral, but Elaine didn’t tell the Lobels that Ben was Danny’s, but they have wondered about it ever since. Neither Rose nor Ben have to wonder anymore… they found each other and the truth.
This was a short, easy, and enjoyable read! It only took me four hours to read, compared to my initial estimate of ten hours! The text was written in language that was to read and understand. The plot was very well-designed. Poor Ben had been dealt a bad hand- his mother’s death, didn’t know who his father was, having to share a room with a cousin who let it be known he didn’t want him there, got struck by lightning which caused complete deafness, and once he was in New York it seemed like he just couldn’t catch a break. I found myself wanting to skip to the end to see how the book ended, but I didn’t want to miss any exciting and important events that may have happened. I had hoped for a happy ending, which the book had, but I had hoped he would find his father. He found his grandmother, so I was happy. J
The pictures in the book were magnificent. I knew that the pictures and text were related, but I couldn’t quite figure out how. The text had to tell me how they related. Once I realized the relationship and finished reading the text, I went back and admired the pictures again. This gave me a better understanding of the story as a whole.
Brian Selznick is truly a gifted author. It requires great craft to tell two stories, one in pictures and one in words, set fifty years apart, and intertwine them to make one story. Brilliant! This book is truly a masterpiece. I’ve not read anything else like it. As I was exploring the websites Dr. Frye had listed for us, I learned that he has another book written in pictures and words, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Perhaps that can be some pleasure reading for this summer.
This book can definitely be used in the classroom. It would be more fitting for upper grades because of the way the two stories are told separately, and then brought together. I loved the resource provided that allowed students to go on virtual tours of the museum. That would be a great extension to this book! For my Kinders, I could read parts of the story to them and I could have them create a Museum Box. Although they are young, I’m sure they have things that are important to them that they could put in this box. Before having them create a Museum Box, I would show them mine.
I am one that mainly uses pictures to remember important things. I have thousands of pictures, from every event, family get-togethers, or just because. However, I do have a few items that hold special importance to me. Really, I guess I have three museum boxes. Two of them my mom prepared, and one of them I have created. One of the boxes my mom gave me contains items when I was a baby such as my baby book, clothes, blankets, etc. The other box she gave contains items that she felt would be important to me from her marriage with my father. My dad passed away when I was seven, and he was sick most of that time, so I don’t have a good idea of what their relationship was like according to my memories. This box includes her engagement ring and wedding band, photographs, newspaper articles that my father had saved, and other jewelry he had given her. My mom wrote a note with each item in this box explaining why it was in there and how she/he had gotten it and when. My mom also included in this box items from his funeral- the guest book, cards received, and the newspaper obituary. My mom didn’t give me these boxes until I was married, and I cherish them so much, especially the one with my father’s things.
My museum box contains items I have gathered over the years that are very significant to me.
There would be a doll about two feet tall, that a family friend made for my mother when she was a child, and she gave it to me when I was a young girl. In addition, there is a rotating, musical trinket that has red birds on it. I collected these musical trinkets as a young girl, and this one is especially significant because my aunt gave it to me. I was named Lisa Gail after my aunt, Sherry Gail. She was like a mother to me. My mom always told me that she didn’t want her to name me after her because they would mark me. They must have because I am her made over! I always told her that I was proud to be named after her. We had a bond that was indescribable. She passed away seven years ago, and if I ever have a daughter, I plan to “mark” her with the Gail name as well.
Another item in my museum box is the Bible that I received at my baptismal (a VERY important moment in my spiritual life). I was so excited to get my first “grown-up” Bible (previously I had used Children’s editions). I used this Bible for several years before receiving a new one and placing this one in my museum box.
The next two items are important because they are reminders of the love of my husband’s love. The first is a promise ring. It was made of white gold, shaped in a heart, and one half of the heart rotated between diamonds and sapphires (my birthstone). I only had this promise ring for about two and a half months before I got my engagement ring (our relationship moved very quickly), but I loved it and still do. You will also find our wedding invitation. Daniel and I were young when we married (I was 19) and broke, so we made our own invitations. I typed the information on the computer, and then we printed them using the kits we purchased. Daniel had a very old printer, so it printed extremely slow. Neither of us knew how to adjust the paper size on the tray, so sometimes when it would pick up the invitation it would make it print crooked. To prevent it from doing this, you had to sit there and hold the corner edge of the stack of invitations in place. It was late when we started this project and his printer prints so slow that by the time it had printed half of them, I was so sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Daniel told me to go to sleep and he would keep an eye on it. I woke up at 7am, and he was still sitting there holding those invitations! He had stayed up all night to make sure our invitations were perfect. Every time I think of this, I am reminded of how much he loves me because not everybody would have done that. I am the luckiest woman! 😀
During life, we have friends who come and go, but very few make an imprint on your heart. While managing at Mr. Roberts, I became friends with a teenager named Ashley. Over a period of three years our friendship blossomed, and we spent a lot of time together outside of work; going to school, eating, shopping, and just hanging out. Ashley loved to play cards and board games, and anytime we got together, that’s what we would end up doing. Each year, Ashley would go with the women of her family to Pigeon Forge for a Women’s Weekend of shopping and fun. The last year Ashley went to Pigeon Forge, she brought me back a deck of playing cards because we had been at my house, and of course we were going to play some kind of card game, but I didn’t have a plain deck of cards. This surprised me! How thoughtful of her! Unfortunately, the cards are still in their wrapper. Ashley died unexpectedly, at the age of 20, not long after she gave them to me, and we never had the opportunity to make memories while playing with them. April 23rd made two years since her death, and I greatly miss her! Here’s a picture of me and Ashley.
The most recently added and final item in my museum box is a candle I received as a Christmas gift this past year. I received the gift from my best friend’s mother and church family member. I have known her my whole life and have spent much time with her. This past Christmas she handed me a small blue gift back that had the words “A Gift for You “on it. As I removed the tissue paper, I saw a candle in the bag. I got the candle out and noticed what it had written on the outside:
She has a great will to succeed
Likes to keep things simple
I read these words and was amazed at how right-on they were, and she was. I keep this candle to remind myself that people can see through us and “see” who we are.