In Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick’s engrossing follow-up to his Caldecott-winning “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” (the film adaptation of which, directed by Martin Scorsese, hits theaters this December), two hearing-impaired 12-year-olds, 50 years apart, run away from home to New York. In 1977, after his mother is killed in a car crash, Ben Wilson leaves Minnesota to find clues to his father’s identity. In 1927 New Jersey, a desperately unhappy Rose keeps a scrapbook of her favorite film star.
Continuing the form he pioneered in “Hugo Cabret,” Selznick tells Rose’s story as a silent film that unfolds in haunting pencil drawings. As Ben, who recently lost his hearing in a lightning strike, struggles to navigate New York, which unfolds to him “noiselessly, like a scary movie with the sound turned off,” he is drawn to the American Museum of Natural History. It takes several hundred pages for the two children’s stories to fold together, but they do so in an emotionally fulfilling way. (Sharp-eyed readers will catch homages to the ultimate running-away-to-a-museum-story, E.L. Konigsburg’s Newbery-winning classic “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”)