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What’s In Your Cabinet of Wonders?

TITLE: Wonderstruck

AUTHOR: Brian Selznick


SUMMARY: (via amazon) From Brian Selznick, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, comes another breathtaking tour de force.

Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother’s room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories–Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful–with over 460 pages of original artwork–Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

BRIDGE: There are so many uses for this book that I have thought of that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if almost every discipline could figure out some way to incorporate it into its classroom. I began using this book to help my students work on making inferences and predictions. Yes, reading the text lends itself to practicing these skills because of the fragmented way in which the story is told. But readers must also make inferences when “reading” the illustrations. And the pacing of the book feeds prediction making because readers want to get to the next set of illustrations of the next section of text to continue Ben or Rose’s story. As we finished this book, I zeroed in on a passage of Ben’s musings about his father. He says, “I wonder if we all aren’t cabinets of wonders?” It got me thinking – what would I put in MY cabinet of wonder? And as my 8th graders close out their school year and their middle school experiences, I thought they might like to reflect too. So, we’re writing descriptive essays about the items we each would put in our own personal cabinet of wonders (PCW). And they we’re going to actually put the together – or at least create a visual of our PCW.* But even in other disciplines, there are applications for this book.History classes could trace the origination and development of the modern museum or, particularly, The American Museum of Natural History. The book could be used to spark interest in the 1920s or the 1970s. And the fact that the main characters are both deaf could initiate some impromptu sign language classes. Art teachers could play with either pencil or charcoal drawing techniques or model making given the magnificent Panorama described toward the end of the book. I could go on and on.

READERS: This is a perfect book for reluctant readers. The physical size of the book is intimidating but readers are usually reassured by the “number” of illustrations. It is an intricate read and many don’t even realize they are navigating such a complex text. Readers who enjoy parallel stories and a smoothly dove-tailed story line will delight in Rose & Ben’s stories coming together.

OTHER TITLES: Readers who like this book will also enjoy The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk or (for the slightly older crowd) My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger.

*I hope to be able to post some of the writing and visuals my students create as we explore our own Cabinets of Wonders.


2 thoughts on “What’s In Your Cabinet of Wonders?

  1. I adore this book– it’s one of those I want the whole world to read! I’d been looking forward to it since I first heard about what Selznick’s next book would be, and I wasn’t disappointed. Love the idea about writing about your cabinet of wonder!

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