Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2011 Fiction
Ages: 9 & Up
Author: Brian Selznick
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Producer: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-545-02789-2
Hardcover Price: $29.99

Mourning the death of his mother, Ben slips out of his cousins' house to go back home for an evening. Searching through his mother's things, he finds, enclosed in a book about museums, a bookmark with a note and a phone number from a man Ben's never heard of. He's never known about his father-his mother never talked about him-but suddenly he is quite sure that this man is his father. Unfortunately, he picks up the phone during a thunderstorm; and now Ben, who has been deaf in one ear from birth, can no longer hear in his "good ear" after the lightning strike was transmitted through the phone line. Despite his new difficulty, Ben is determined to locate the address on the bookmark, and find his father in New York City. In another timeline, fifty years before Ben's accident, a young deaf girl is also searching for her family in the city. Through their encounters in the American Museum of Natural History, they both begin to untangle the mysteries that led them on their searches.

Like Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this one is told through a mixture of text and beautifully rendered drawings. The central theme of finding inspiration for wonder in museums is a fitting subject for such a format; for the reader, much of the wonder comes from Selznick's loving depictions of dioramas, wonder cabinets, and artifacts. The story and characters--both the ones rendered in text and the ones rendered in drawings-are warm and engaging. At the end, the threads are drawn together perhaps too neatly; this reader would have preferred more unexplained wonder and less rationalization of all the mysteries. Nevertheless, young readers will be captivated by this finely crafted piece of multimedia storytelling.

Naomi Lesley   ©2011 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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