Wonderstruck made me want a wonder cabinet.

As far as personal style and aesthetic tastes go; I swing to either wildly overcrowded with tiny figurines, knick knacks, and endless shelves crowded with every kind of book, or I like things to be simple to the point of functionality only. And since I thoroughly enjoy both of these types of decorating and detest anything in the middle, it’s easy to see how I feel like I’m constantly in battle against my surroundings (hopefully this will change soon).

Anyways, I bring this up because Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (click here for my review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the first book by Brian Selznick)  is an AMAZING mix of both simplicity in story line and character development, and yet also an overwhelming amount of small, magical details and plot points that truly touch the heart. The story outlines the life of a young boy named Ben, who is still grieving the loss of his mother in a car accident. Through an unfortunate event he loses hearing in one ear; and since he was already deaf in the other one, he is now completely deaf. Searching for his father and a sense of belonging; he goes to New York. All the while the book is interspersed with pictures telling a different story of a girl running away from her house to New York to look for a famous actress.

I won’t give away any nuances or particulars, but of course the story culminates in the lives of the two young people finally coming together in a touching, loving end. There are of course many nuances and little plot threads that lead off into various directions that one can day dream about and envision, and with the help of the illustrations, they literally pop off the page and into one’s imagination. It makes me want to go visit the New York museum of natural history, and to see the huge model of New York City down to the smallest details of every building and tree.

But more than that, the theme I loved the most that Brian Selznick brings up is that we are all our own wonder cabinets. That we collect in memories and physical objects the wonderful little pieces of our special moments; what makes us so special. Whether it’s a special rock we found at a beach, a leaf from the park on a really good day, a certificate of completion for learning basic french, or a button from your favorite shirt in third grade; the things we keep and why we keep them is all important. This novel inspires me to take a look around my house to see what things do I really treasure, and what things I keep for appearances sake. It makes me wonder if I want things to be as functional and simple as possible because I have too much emotional and mental baggage that I want to get rid of, or that I like hoarding every single thing that has a tiny bit of significance because I’m afraid of letting go.

We’ll see, I guess, but nevertheless perhaps I should spend less time buying clothing and shoes and more time collecting things that will mean more to me in ten years than “that one pair” of jeans or that adorable pair of heels.


About Angela

Editor, bookbinder, and writer.

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