Expanding upon the genre-breaking form he invented in his trailblazing debut novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," Brian Selznick creates another multi-layered reading experience. "Wonderstruck" weaves together two independent stories, set fifty years apart—Ben's story, which takes place in 1977, is told in words; Rose's story in 1927 is told in pictures. Ever since his mother died, Ben feels lost. At home with her father, Rose feels alone. When Ben finds a mysterious clue hidden in his mother's room, and when a tempting opportunity presents itself to Rose, both children risk everything to find what's missing. Here's an excerpt.
Water lapped at the dock, and the boats clacked against one another. A loon called across the night, and the stones of Gunflint Lake glittered faintly in the darkness. The woods at night were always spooky, and the weak beam of the flashlight didn’t stretch very far. Ben kept moving toward his house, where the one glowing window beckoned, staring back through the darkness like an unblinking eye. Under a vault of shaking black branches, he ran.
The doors to his house, like nearly all the doors along the lake, were unlocked. Ben quietly entered through the back, into the kitchen. He moved his small beam of light around the room. The flowers and food from the funeral had been cleared out, but the owl-shaped cookie jar sat on the counter with its head off, the way it always had. The junk drawer remained closed crookedly. The refrigerator was still covered with his mom’s favorite quotes. It was like entering a museum of his old life.
Ben realized that he could hear music playing softly in the distance. He turned his head to hear it more clearly and a chill went down his spine.
“This is Major Tom to ground control;
I’m stepping thro’ the door,
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way.
And the stars look very different today
For here am I sitting in a tin can far above the world. . . .”
Ben heard footsteps. He turned his good ear toward the direction he thought the sound was coming from . . . somewhere near his mother’s room, he guessed.
Ben had never really believed in ghosts, although some of the stories his mom had read to him when he was younger had kept him up at night. He tiptoed slowly down the hall to his mom’s room, the blood pounding in his head. A faint smell of cigarette smoke grew stronger as he got closer.
Ben paused in the hallway, dizzy with fear. “You shouldn’t be such a turtle.”
He inched closer until he was right outside her door. He turned off the flashlight and put it in his back pocket.
The door was open a crack, and he could see the framed Van Gogh print—a big black tree and a swirling night sky with golden stars. A shadow moved across the room.
Ben thought about the shooting star and the impossible wish he’d made. With a trembling hand, he slowly pushed open the door.
From "Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick. Scholastic Inc./Scholastic Press. Copyright (c) 2011 by Brian Selznick. Reprinted by permission.