Now, if you read my first news update post, you’d likely see this coming. If not, then it’s either one of several options: A) You’re not an in-the-flesh Sammwak subscriber, B) You’re one of those people who have on/off subscriptions, C) You likely leafed through the post and ignored all the vital detail down to the jump, and/or D) You don’t have the most elaborate memory around. But either way, come one, come all, because one size fits all of you right? Anyway, you may have seen my review for Hugo Cabret back at 2S2M, and although I won’t spoil the results to novice viewers, it was probably a book I’ll never forget. And when I found Wonderstruck in a story that you’re gonna have to find in the news update, I was immediately hooked after further research. And it’s all led me to this tiny wrinkle in time–a review that’s hopefully as groundbreaking as the book itself.
What I consider to be the spiritual successor of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck is probably one of the most clever titles Brian Selznick’s worked on as a solo artist. Well, considering this is his fifth one. Anyway, what makes Wonderstruck unique from Hugo Cabret is that–besides it being 75 pages longer, and contending for both a Newbery and Caldecott–it doesn’t just revolve around one storyline–it intertwines two. One story takes place at Gunflint Lake, Minnesota in summer 1977, revolving around Ben Wilson, a young partly-deaf boy that’s just shaken off the death of his mother/the town librarian. He now lives with his aunt and uncle near the house he grew up in, and is now trying to solve the mystery of his father’s identity. You see, Ben never really knew his dad, but feels a pull to uncover him. Ben discovers a bookmark in one of his mom’s books–coincidentally titled Wonderstruck–and finds an inscribing dedicated to his mother ending with “Love, Danny”. Believing that this Danny is the Mr. Wilson, Ben attempts to call the number on the bookmark–just as lightning hits his house and travels through the phone line to his good ear. Now 100% deaf, Ben flees from his hospital and to NYC, meeting a girl named Jamie at the American Museum of Natural History. She claims to be a worker’s daughter as well, and gives him a short tour and smuggles him in a storage room. Despite Jamie’s compassion, Ben decides to keep pursuing the mystery of his father, and on the way he meets Rose. Just to inform you, this story is told entirely in words, like a regular book would.
Rose’s story, however, takes place fifty years before this in fall 1927, and is told entirely in pictures. In Hoboken, New Jersey, Rose is kept in her home with frequent visits from a tutor. No, she isn’t falling behind in school–coincidentally, she too is deaf. Unsatisfied with her life, she runs off to–you guessed it–NYC, to see her idol Lillian Mayhew. (She’s fictitious, just to set the record.) At the theater where Lillian is performing, Rose sneaks in but quickly loses her stealth as she is caught by Lillian. This is when the first twist of the story is revealed–Rose is actually Lillian’s daughter. Conversing through writing, Lillian threatens to send Rose back to her dad, so she continues to flee. This time she goes to–you guessed it again–the American Museum of Natural History! She is found by one of the workers, named Walter, who is actually her brother, whom promises to speak with her parents at his apartment. At this point, Rose’s story flash-forwards fifty years into the future, so she is now an old woman entering a 1977 bookstore. At this point, Ben and Rose finally meet. A very shocking twist is revealed at this point, but I’ll save that until you read the book…
Wonderstruck is a very brilliantly executed, charming, imaginative, and truly magical Selznick title, making the best use of Selznick’s eye-popping illustration I’ve seen to date. It was one of my most engrossing and impressive reads of the month, that does a surprising job of keeping us rooting for Ben and Rose. But although it didn’t show as much flourish and flair as Hugo–and it went by very quickly without letting much details soak in–but Wonderstruck is probably one of the best books I’ve seen from Selznick to date. Chart, please.
4 out of 5 – Educational value – As a good chunk of the book happens at the American Museum of Natural History, but for many other reasons as well, Wonderstruck sparks engaging wonders for exploring places and things from NYC to the nearest few natural history museums to the deaf culture. (A) That does exist, and B) That’s why you may have seen the word as “Deaf”.) All these trailheads can lead to your own adventures that can leave you wonderstruck.
5 out of 5 – Positive messages – Wonderstruck has one major message that is greatly emphasized through the book: blood is thicker than water. What this means is the family bond outdoes any other bond, and the book teaches us about family and friendship, plus its endurance through time and space. The adventures Rose and Ben embark on after becoming runaways are profitably more than what an average-minded youngen would imagine today. And Brian Selznick greatly culminates the message with the grand twist near the end of the book…
1 out of 5 – Positive role models – Like in the positive message section, Wonderstruck exemplifies loving family and true friends, and shows how a strong-enough bond can overcome any difficulty, danger, or trial. While Ben and Rose show relations to many of these gallant figures–Rose’s brother Walter (“an especially shining example”, according to Common Sense), Ben’s late mother (“just the parent [Ben] needed”, according to Common Sense), among others–they themselves show devotion to everyone who is crucial to them. Their journeys to define themselves and where they belong on Earth also flares their wisdom, tenacity, and focus–which, coincidentally, is the name of Vanilla Ice’s latest album.
4 out of 5 – Ease of read – Wonderstruck is a great spiritual successor to Hugo, using the same magical talents, eye-popping and rather well-accompanying visuals, and heartfelt storyline and effects that made it a Caldecott-winning hit. What separates Wonderstruck so much from its spiritual predecessor is that it seemed to slip on a banana peel many books have slipped on–going by without letting details soak in, and having a truly rough time juggling its elements. The illustrations may make you say otherwise, but in actuality it’s a struggle. Overall, a great book for those who adored Hugo.
2 out of 5 – Violence – It happens rather suddenly when Ben is “struck by lightning” and loses his remaining hearing. Rose also sees a silent film, with the book primarily capturing the essence of a storm scene, and this is greatly and ominously intertwined with Ben’s story. Ben also has his money robbed nearly as soon as he arrives as well. Not much violence, otherwise–also another contrast from Hugo.
1 out of 5 – Inappropriate Content – Rose’s mom–again, Lillian Mayhew–is a scandalous 1920’s figure, having divorced her husband for a young actor named Percy. Ben was the final result of a short canoodling between his mother and a museum curator. Like Hugo, not much here either.
1 out of 5 – Product Placement – Wonderstruck is rooted from Selznick’s Caldecott-winning 2008 classic Hugo Cabret, but no consumerism is depicted otherwise–save for one picture. This picture depicted the bustling nightlife-filled streets of NYC, and brands like Chevrolet are clearly visible among all the lights.
1 3/4 out of 5 – Drinking, Drugs, and/or Smoking – Like Hugo, this section’s a bit of an iffy. In one scenario, Ben finds his teenage cousin Janet wearing his mom’s clothes and smoking cigarettes. Ben’s mother herself had smoked before she died. I wonder why…
Entertainment: A+ (5 points)
Fun: A+ (5 points)
Smarts: A (4 points)
Style: A+ (5 points)
Read-Again Ratio: B+ (3.5 points)
Humor: B (3 points)
FINAL SCORE: 25.5 out of 30 (I guess Hugo was better :(), 5 stars out of 5, 85% out of 100%
CONSENSUS: It may not have as much flair and magic as its predecessor Hugo Cabret, and it goes by quickly without taking the time to let details soak in, but Wonderstruck is a greatly impressive and engrossing novel with the same eye-popping visuals, unlikely and surprising entertainment, and everlasting comfort that all of Selznick’s books have.
PRICE: On hardcover, the book costs $17 on Amazon. New copies are $11, and 42 are $13. Savings? 42%. The fabled unknown binding of the book costs $44 for a new copy, and just $42 for a used. Savings? It doesn’t say, but I can infer it’s puny. At Barnes & Noble, Wonderstruck costs the same $17 (with the same wee savings), but the marketplace version costs $12 with 59% savings. How about that to leave you wonderstruck? And for the people who mistook this Wonderstruck for Taylor Swift’s Wonderstruck, don’t worry–I got you covered too. The 3.4.-oz perfume bottle costs $47 on regular mode (hey, beauty doesn’t come cheap ), and if you plan on ordering order fast–there’s a slight chance shipping might be impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The 1.7-oz Eau de Parfum costs $35, the .33-oz roll-on costs $18, and the 6.8-oz gel costs $25. Now you’ll be reading happy and smelling happy!
You know what to do–subscribe, like, comment, reblog, Press This, share, spread, come back next time for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak, blah blah blah. Or should I say, to start off the Thanksgiving season, gobble gobble gobble.
Videos of the Week: Alright, now there are two possible opinions I could state about this video–Tobuscus is doing something with the “Sony PlayStation VIP” campaign, or he’s putting up another one of his little just-for-kicks infomercials. Like the Hot Pockets one. Or was that actually real? Anyway, Toby put this up last Monday and it’s already got over 700,000 hits! Check out this video and comment whether or not you think it’s the real deal. And whether or not you like his sweet house!
And if you want that Hot Pockets one, I got it here for you too. It’s got 1.2 million hits since May this year! That’s pretty darn hot. Not as hot as the Facebook page you’ll likely want to check out after this video: https://www.facebook.com/hotpockets