The Wonders of Brian Selznick

I had to write a post about the works of Brian Selznick because I wanted to share how utterly amazing I find them.  These are more than simple children’s books – they are works of art like no other.  These books combine text and illustrations magically, with the illustrations telling portions of the story seamlessly and artfully, yet without words.  As is apparent, the written word is at the heart of what I do and what I believe and what I love, so I have to admit to being doubtful when hearing of the concept.  Have no doubt; these are books worth reading, worth owning, and worth looking at again and again.

hugoAt the turn of the 20th century Hugo Cabret is hiding in the train station in Paris, keeping the clocks running now that his uncle is gone, and stealing to provide himself with food.  His deceased father left him a notebook full of drawings and a non-working automaton – in Hugo’s spare time he works on bringing it back to life.  When he meets a strange girl and her grandfather in the train station he becomes embroiled in the mysteries of their lives while still trying to preserve his own.

“Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do…Maybe it’s the same with people,” Hugo continued. “If you lose your purpose…it’s like you’re broken.” 

Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 533
Publication: Scholastic Press, January 2007

wonderstruckWonderstruck adds another level of complexity to a story told largely through illustrations.  It tells of the story of two different characters, Ben and Rose, fifty years apart in time.  Ben’s story is told through words while Rose’s is told through the illustrations.  Both embark on a quest to find what is missing in their lives and eventually their stories will come together.  The transition between the stories, and their ultimate intertwining, is seamless.  What could be confusing is instead artful and beautiful.

“Maybe, thought Ben, we are all cabinets of wonders.” 

Title: Wonderstruck
Author: Brian Selznick
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 608
Publication: Scholastic Press, 2011

Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge is to list the books that we recommend the most.  Each experience with a book is intensely personal, recommending a book is dangerous business.  What you love may not be loved by others since every person’s experience with a book is distinct.  You may not love the books that I love, but these are those that I love enough to recommend to others…

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – If I had to pick one book that has impacted me the most, which I found to be the greatest book I have ever read, this would be it.  I believe that we are watching a classic be born and someday I will be telling my grandkids that I remember when it was a new release!  If you have not read this book please do so, immediately.
  2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan – A fantastic coming-of-age story about two boys (all they have in common is the name) who are figuring out who they are, how to be that person, and how to find acceptance.  There are a ton of coming-of-age books out there, but I have never read one that tells the story so beautifully.
  3. The Giver by Lois Lowry – Can a utopian society really exist?  What has to be given up?  And is it worth the price?  What if you decide it isn’t worth the cost?  There are a lot of books out now that deal with dystopian societies, but this is definitely my favorite, dealing with the core questions artfully.
  4. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny – I love the Inspector Gamache series and it only gets better with each book that is released.  While there are a lot of mystery series that I enjoy, this series has a depth and beauty that I have not found elsewhere.  The character development, history, settings, depth of interactions and emotions, make this my favorite to recommend for mystery lovers.
  5. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – An inspired work of art.  The story is told through a combination of words and amazing illustrations and is done seamlessly.  His second book, Wonderstruck, is just as wonderful and I recommend both of these books to children and adults alike.
  6. Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough – I am passionate about the importance of education, particularly literacy.  This book about Geoffrey Canada’s work in starting The Harlem Children’s Zone is information and inspiring.
  7. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – The story of Louis Zamperini’s life, from his delinquent childhood to the Berlin Olympics through harrowing experiences during World War II, is an amazing tale of perseverance and faith.
  8. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – My favorite DiCamillo book and the book that I enjoyed reading to the kids the most.  A new fairy tale – another one that I will tell my grandkids about someday!
  9. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – Both humorous and heart-wrenching, the story of people as told from the point of view of a dog.  Sounds a hokey but somehow it really does work, leaving you loving the soul of this amazing animal.
  10. Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh – I love the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk exiled from Vietnam.  This book is a conversation between Jesus and Buddha, centered in compassion and the similarities that are at the core of both beliefs.