by Brian Selznick, published 2011
“Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system. That way, you’d be able to find whatever you were looking for, like the meaning of your dream, or your Dad.”
After you manage to deal with the sheer size of this children’s book (608 pages!), it’s pretty easy to settle in to a very poignant and creative story about the intertwining of destiny. The size is due simply because half of the story is told through black-and-white pencil illustrations. Sometimes the pictures take a little more work to decipher their meaning. However, by the time I reached the conclusion, it was all quite clear.
Like Selznick’s other book, Hugo Cabret, there’s an old world feeling about this children’s book. We have one foot in the past and one in the present as the story unfolds two lives and their journeys. The contemporary child, and the child from the past, are both deaf, and that adds a certain sense of compassion to this tale. It’s hard not to admire the courage of Ben as he steps into the unfamiliar New York City. It struck me as somewhat unrealistic, and yet, I was willing to go along simply because this is a story well told.
I like this children’s book particularly because I found that the characters, and the beauty of the relationships, remained with me after finishing the book. In addition, the art work is beautiful. It is amazing what the author can do with simple pencil strokes. The book is a great read for middle school kids 9 to 12.