Wonderstruck is Selznick’s second illustrated novel of this length. The book contains “460 pages of artwork” and is in total 610 pages long. The book contains two stories: Rose’s story (set in 1927), told entirely in pictures and Ben’s story (set in 1977), told entirely in text.
Ben’s story starts in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota in June 1977. He was born deaf in one of his ears. Ben’s mom, Elaine, was the town librarian, but died in a car crash a few weeks before. He now lives with his aunt and uncle a couple miles across Gunflint Lake from the house he grew up in. Ben has never known his dad, but feels a pull to find out who he was. Ben discovers a bookmark in his mother's book, Wonderstruck inscribed to his mother that ends with the words "Love, Danny." Ben thinks Danny must be his father and proceeds to call the number listed on the bookmark. As he is calling, a bolt of lightning hits his house, travels through the phone line and causes him to lose his remaining hearing. He wakes up in the hospital, unaware of where he is. A short time later, he decides to run away from the hospital and journey to New York City, eventually hiding out in the American Museum of Natural History. While at the museum, he meets Jamie, whose father works at the museum. Jamie takes him on tours of the back areas of the museum and helps him to hide in an unused storage room. Ben is still determined to track down his father, so he leaves the museum to locate the bookstore listed on the bookmark he found in his mother's book that was written by his father. Once there, he encounters Rose and they try to piece together how they might be connected.
Rose's story starts in Hoboken, New Jersey in October 1927. She is kept at home with visits from a tutor because she is deaf. Unhappy and lonely at home, she runs away to New York City to see her idol, actress Lillian Mayhew. In New York, Rose travels to the theater where Lillian Mayhew is performing. She sneaks in and is found by the actress herself, who we learn is actually Rose's mother. Mayhew is furious, despite Rose telling her that she came because she missed her. Mayhew threatens to send Rose back to her father, so Rose runs away again. This time she goes to the American Museum of Natural History. She is found there by her brother, Walter. He takes her back to his apartment and promises to speak to their parents. At this point, Rose's story skips forward 50 years, and we see her as an older woman entering a bookstore. It is there she meets Ben. It is then revealed that Rose is Ben's grandmother, and Danny was both Rose's son and Ben's father. Rose takes Ben to Queens and leads him into the Queens Museum of Art where she tells her story. Rose then shows Ben an extremely detailed mini New York City that she hand-made for the "World's Fair" in New York, in 1964. Also she explains how Danny met Ben's mother, Elaine, and how Ben's father died from heart failure. The book ends with the 1977 blackout occurring as Ben, Rose and Jamie (who followed them to Queens) look out at the stars waiting for Rose's brother, Walter, to pick them up.
Wonderstruck is currently[when?] being discussed as both a Newbery Medal and a Caldecott Medal contender. Mary Quattlebaum of the Washington Post calls it "brilliantly executed." Roger Sutton, editor in Chief of the Horn Book Magazine, cites the "technical brilliance" and was included in the CCBA (Colorados Children's Book Award). Selznick shows in the artistry of his illustrations. Tim Wadham, a reviewer for School Library Journal, discusses the dual text/illustration format that Selznick uses and says "the combination provides an emotional experience that neither the words nor the illustrations could achieve on their own." Ken Setterims up the impact of Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by stating that "In fact, taken in tandem, these two titles have redefined the creative possibilities for novels and picture books."
Schneider Family Award. The Best Book Reward of 2011
- Brian, Selznick. "Wonderstruck the book". Wonderstruck. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
- Setterington, Ken (Sep 2011). "Wonderboy". School Library Journal 57 (8): 20–24.
- "Reads Like a Book, Looks Like a Film". The New York Times. 2008-01-26. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
- Lindsay, Nina. "Wonderstruck". Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog. School Library Journal. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Smith, Robin. "Wonderstruck". Calling Caldecott. Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
- Quattlebaum, Mary (2011-09-16). "For Young Readers: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick". The Washington Post.
- Sutton, Roger (9/1/11). "Wonderstruck". Horn Book Magazine 87 (5): 101–2.
- Wadham, Tim (2011). "Wonderstruck". School Library Journal 57 (8): 120–21.