Wonderstruck: Selznick gives us another cinematically inclined book.

via borders.com

via borders.com

I recently had the opportunity to read author/illustrator Brian Selznick’s latest, Wonderstruck, a book that in many ways continues what Selznick started with his 2008 Caldecott Medal-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Wonderstruck, like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a cinematic book—not only in the gorgeous and wholly unique synthesis of word and illustration, but also in its contextual interest in the history of film. While Hugo Cabret dwells on the magic of earliest cinema, one storyline in Wonderstruck explores the transition from silent film to sound through the eyes of a deaf girl. Such a subtext is perfect in a book told in two such parallel storylines—one storyline told in words, one in pictures. I am not giving too much away in saying that the deaf character’s story plays out like a silent film.  Selznick tells her story almost entirely in hundreds of luminous black and white pencil sketches.

Seeing the transition from silent to sound film unfold through the eyes of an early twentieth century deaf girl gives that moment in history a whole new perspective. But the exploration of cinematic history is not the focus of this book in the same way that it was the focus of Hugo Cabret. While both books do share the same themes of gaining a sense of belonging and discovering one’s place in the world, Wonderstruck has many fascinating layers aside from the cinematic. New York City history, deaf culture, and the fascinating story of the American Museum of Natural History are all dimensions of this well-crafted and visually captivating narrative.

Such a unique array of themes and subplots render this a book that refreshes our perspective on how we see and hear our world  and the people that inhabit it. This book is indeed a wonder to behold in its varying shades—thematic and artistic—of black and white, light and sound.

I do have to say, one wonders if Selznick’s next book might perhaps include a narrative commentary on the advent of color cinema?

Book illustration found here.


Kid Lit (and more!) at the Oscars

Oscar season has been especially exciting for me this year due to the striking number of Oscar nominations for children’s literature adaptations and movies featuring children.

The Best Picture nominees alone include two films based on children’s books (Hugo and War Horse) and another two films with child protagonists (The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s film based on Brian Selznick’s magnificent book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, has received 11 Oscar nominations. War Horse, most famously adapted from the Tony Award-Winning play, was first a book by Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo. The film has received 6 Oscar nominations.

The Adventures of Tintin, based on Hergé’s beloved series about the exploits of the eponymous hero also received an Oscar nomination. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 received 3 nominations.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the enchantingly whimsical tribute to the joy of reading and power of books has my vote for Best Animated Short Film. I love the paradoxical harmony this film somehow achieves as it so beautifully uses a cinematic medium to celebrate literacy.

Believe me, it’s worth all fifteen minutes: