In 2011, I read and enjoyed Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which mixed text with double page spreads of wordless black and white illustrations to tell a story about a boy named Hugo living within the walls of a Paris train station. Wonderstruck is the follow up to that novel. Although it is not a sequel to Hugo Cabert, Wonderstruck utlizes the same unique mix of words and pictures, to tell the story of two different children. The reader will notice right off the bat that this is different from Hugo Cabret, as the 1977 story is told completely in text, while the 1927 story is told completely in pictures. I actually think this way works even better than the one story told using both formats, as can be found in Hugo Cabret.
Many of the strengths of Hugo Cabret can be found in Wonderstruck as well. There's almost a cinematic quality to Selznick's illustrations. An example where this can be seen is in sequences where he focuses in on a particular subject, much like a camera zooming in. Some of the illustrations are incredibly detailed and impressive, but the ones that drew me in the most were the simpler, more character focused pictures, due to Selznick's knack for capturing expression. I actually found the quality of the writing of Wonderstruck to be better than Hugo Cabret. I was equally engrossed by both the text and picture parts, and really felt for the characters that we met here.
One thing that I think Selznick does not get enough credit for is the fact that both Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, on top of being beautiful works, are also really strong works of historical fiction. The fact that Selznick focuses on lesser known parts of history (in Hugo, it was George Melies, in Wonderstruck, it is the development of museums) leads to an almost an educational element to his work. I really admire how he is able to keep such an educational air without being overly dry. He never seems to forget that the most important part of the novel is not the facts, but the story and characters.
I was really satisfied with Wonderstruck, which I actually found to be an improvement over Hugo Cabret. The dual storylines are very well laid out, and I even found myself gasping in surprise at a few moments. The illustrations also do a fantastic job of telling a wordless story (with a few exceptions- some characters write notes to each other). Like Hugo, due to it's format, Wonderstruck is a book that you can read in just a few sittings. I highly recommend it to fans of middle grade fiction.
Rating: five stars
Length: 637 pages
Source: Readfield Community Library
Other books I've read by this author: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Next I will be reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads