By Reviewed by Jerry Griswold in the San Diego Union TribuneNew Selznick Book Does It Again:
Brian Selznick; illustrated by Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press; 640 pages; $29.99
Ages 9 and up
Warwick’s Books will host a digital presentation of “Wonderstruck” and a discussion with Brian Selznick at the San Diego Natural History Museum at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Tickets: $40. Phone: (858) 454-0347
In promotional material, Brian Selznick explains that he “divides his time between Brooklyn and San Diego”; indeed, part of the year he lives in La Jolla and he has illustrated prizewinning picture books by noted Cardiff author Pam Muñoz Ryan. We have, then, an occasion to boast: “Local Author Does Good.”
In 2008, Selznick published his groundbreaking visual narrative “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which went on to win the Caldecott Medal, the top prize in illustrated children’s books, and the story will soon appear as a movie directed by Martin Scorsese. Plaudits are also likely to accompany his newest offering, “Wonderstruck.”
Like the earlier book, “Wonderstruck” might seem daunting at first to the would-be reader, since in size and heft it resembles “War and Peace.” Not to worry. What is conspicuous about both tomes is Selznick’s use of the visual and, in this case, among the new book’s 640 pages are more than 400 pencil drawings.Intended for adolescents, Selznick’s book is written with perfect pitch. His vision of the moody young, cut off from parents and seeking new ways of belonging, is situated within Ben’s 1970s boyworld (fishing rod, rifle, slingshots, arrows) and Rose’s 1930s girlworld (scrapbooks of stage and screen starlets, miniature cities constructed like dollhouses). Moreover, the deafness of the young characters serves as a symbol for that pervasive feeling of alienation (as well as a sense of empowerment in separate communities) which often accompanies adolescence — and, Selznick has added, the discovery of gay identity. Here is the territory of “Edward Scissorhands,” “Weetzie Bat” and the Hardy Boys.