Ben has always felt a little different from everyone else. He loves to find and keep small objects to help him remember ordinary and extraordinary experiences, he doesn't like popular music, and he can only hear out of one ear. His mother was the one that always seemed to understand, the one who filled moments of loneliness with laughter and love. But his mother passed away and now he lives with his aunt and uncle. He wants a real connection to someone, and he feels like he can't find it with the people who surround him.
Rose has grown up Deaf and resistant to the prodding of her father to learn lip-reading. She longs to be an actress like her neglectful mother. The only person who seems to reach out to her is her brother, who lives in New York City at a museum.
One night Ben's life changes drastically, he not only discovers information on his father but also loses all of his hearing. Ben deals with the situation by taking off to New York where he must navigate the city with his new hearing loss, and his life inexplicably intertwines with Rose.
This being Brian Selznick of course there are illustrations, Ben's story is told completely in words, and Rose's side is done in illustration. They are fantastic pictures, the eyes are gorgeously done and extremely compelling. The details are fantastic, essentially everything that you expect from a Caldecott Winner.
Brian Selznick has done his research on the history of Deaf culture and how it has progressed in the last century. I also appreciated his attention to detail when it came to museums and how they developed in NYC.
The detail work was wonderful, unfortunately I wasn't as impressed with the plot line itself. It wasn't bad, horrible or disjointed. I liked the eventual tie in of Rose's and Ben's stories, it just seemed that I was waiting for a bigger emotional pay off and didn't receive it. Perhaps it's because I was reading this on the flight back from New Orleans and was overly tired, or perhaps I was expecting something more like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Either way I was expecting something more and never quite received it. Granted this is a more internal, emotionally driven story. There is little action and it seemed to me that many of the conflicts that needed to be overcome were internalized - either emotional or intellectual - by the main characters.
Overall well done, I think this will be a nice peek into Deaf history for younger readers. Also the illustrations are so compelling that they make the entire book worthwhile.
Wonderstruck comes out in Sept. 2011.