- Published: New York : Scholastic, 2011.
- Year Published: 2011
- Description: 637 p.
- Language: English
- Format: Book
- Lexile: 830
- American Museum of Natural History -- Fiction.
- Families -- Fiction.
- Diorama -- Fiction.
- Deaf -- Fiction.
- People with disabilities -- Fiction.
- Museums -- Fiction.
- Runaways -- Fiction.
- New York (N.Y.) -- Fiction. -- History -- 20th century
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Where To Find It
Call number: J Fiction / Selznick, Brian
Available Copies: Downtown Youth
Having lost his mother and his hearing in a short time, twelve-year-old Ben leaves his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he never knew in New York City, and meets there Rose, who is also longing for something missing from her life. Ben's story is told in words; Rose's in pictures.
Reviews & Summaries
We recently visited New York and found the wolves diorama from this book in the museum. Fun!
I don't think it would be as great on an e-reader or a computer (like many graphic novels).
It's the story of a boy from northern MN who recently lost his mother - and a girl in NYC in 1927. If you like natural history museums (several parts were inspired by "The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"), museum curators, old documents and museum archives, dioramas, wolves, American Sign Language, or New York City, I think you'll enjoy this mystery.
Unlike the other kid's and YA books I've read lately (or adult books, for that matter), Selznick just hits the target perfectly everywhere. It was a joy to read and I think will be just as amazing upon repeated reads.
However, the novel does several things very well. At the forefront is Selznick's gift for including captivating black and white illustrations to inspire myriad emotions and ideas in the reader. Had the editor or author decided to cut the written portions of the book in half and left the illustrations the same, the book would have improved immensely. I found myself frequently disappointed by the dead language and lulls in plot toward the middle third of the book, while the illustrations never failed to be the true source of wonder in the novel.
I liked the way Selznick gradually revealed to the reader the richness and inspired connection that exists in deaf culture, as well as his rejection of rigid, insensitive, traditional approaches to 'handling' people who are deaf.
Selznick is much too wordy for Ben's relatively simple narrative, and Ben lacks the depth and growth that might allow the reader to overcome the long blocks of redundant text. I grew impatient with the persistent and wholly unrealistic coincidences and the blunt force of the author's hand in trying to make me feel "wonderstruck" that these situations could have become possible. Perhaps some of this is my distaste for the notion of fate as I see it as lazy reasoning and a weak choice for the machination or driving force of a narrative.
Finally, I'll accept the reuse of the idiosyncratic combination of words and images as in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but I hoped for a story with fewer derivative core elements. This book, at its center, is about an orphaned boy living with an uncle, who runs away to live in a closet of a large public building as he tries to uncover a secret about his absent parents. I mean, come on.
For readers that absolutely loved Hugo and/or the Invention of Hugo Cabret and must have more from Selznick, I'd say keep your expectations low for this one and you're more likely to enjoy it.
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