Reviews: Wonderstruck & The Terrible Two
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
After hearing and reading tremendous things about both The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which I have not yet read) and Wonderstruck, I was looking forward to diving into this children’s novel. At 640 pages, it seems a considerable read, but it just flies by as over half the story is told through illustrations. Selznick intertwines two stories- taking place fifty years apart- of a young boy named Ben (told through words) and a young girl named Rose (told through pictures); both who are longing to find family and love. Ben has recently lost his mom and never knew his father; Rose collects pictures upon pictures of a beautiful film star, who we learn has a very big part in Rose’s life. The way in which Selznick keeps the reader turning and turning pages, eager to find exactly how these two lives are linked? Great. The slow reveal of clues and details about the lives of Ben and Rose? Great as well. However (ah yes, there is a however), I, for various reasons, did not feel much of a connection to the two main characters. This made the ultimate reveal(s) fall down a bit flat for me, I’m afraid. I am not sure whether it was because I felt the written component of the story was too light- I feel like Ben and his mother are both characters who could have been explored and expanded upon in much more detail. Furthermore, part of the big reveal concerns actions Ben’s mother took, and I felt like they didn’t mesh with what (admittedly little) we knew of her character. Wonderstruck ended up being one of those reads that I wanted to love and was ready to be wowed by, but ultimately just liked. As a side note, I really enjoyed the film Hugo, so maybe I will give Selznick’s other novel a try, and see how I fair with that!
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett & Jory John, illus. Kevin Cornell
Mac Barnett is the author of Extra Yarn, one of my favourite picture books, so I knew I had to give this children’s read a whirl. Our young protagonist, Miles Murphy, has just moved with his mom to a small town called Yawnee Valley. Yawnee Valley, as we quickly learn, is most famous for cows. Cows, cows, and more cows, wandering and mooing everywhere. Miles is not pleased. On top of the constant smell of cows, Miles is upset by the fact that he has to make a new reputation for himself at a new school. You see, at his old school, Miles was THE prankster- no one could top him. But here, in the seemingly boring, cow-filled town of Yawnee, there is someone else. Someone who is pulling off humungous, stupendous pranks- like blocking the school entrance with the principal’s car on Miles’s first day at his new school. Principal Barkin, an easily flustered, misguidedly phlegmatic man, immediately (and incorrectly) suspects new student Miles. Miles takes it upon himself to uncover the prankster, beat him or her at his own game and regain his title as best prankster. If you’re looking for a relatively short, quick, funny and slightly nutty read, this is a great pick. Barnett and John, aided by the terrifically fun illustrations by Cornell, have offered up a light and entertaining read- complete with cows!- that will likely appeal to fans of Binky, Mercy Watson, Fly Guy, Timmy Failure, and Big Nate. This is listed as book one, so look forward to more adventures from Yawnee Valley!