January-February 2018 Issue
December 21, 2017

Check it out: Wonderstruck

Source: NYSUT United

Check it Out - Wonderstruck book coverBy Brian Selznick, author and illustrator

Recommended by: Rose Reissman, United Federation of Teachers, director of Writing Institute, Ditmas IS 62

Suitable for: Grades 4-8

Why I chose it: Two storylines, one set in 1977 in Minnesota and the other in 1927 in New Jersey, converge in New York City. It is a journey of two children, both deaf and searching for their parents. Selznick's beautiful pencil drawings offer rich historically researched insight into their journeys.

What I like best: The book offers insight into deaf culture and American technology history. The entire work is informed by values of family connections despite separation and adversity, the capacity of children to be resilient in the face of health crises and personal losses, and being wonderstruck by art and nature. The story uses drawings of wolves to tap into the nightmares many suffer in life. The animals sometimes appear to malign and, at other times, are wise guides. The book focuses pictorially and positively on how journeys can end with desired friendship, family and love.

How teachers can use this book: Students can research the time periods and develop PowerPoints with actual images of New York City, New Jersey and Minnesota scenes. The work uses several key quotes and references to "Space Oddity" by David Bowie; students can identify the sources and reflect on why they fit the story. Older middle school students can compare and contrast this book with E.L. Konigsberg's From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and the "Night at the Museum" movie series. Students can also investigate the sources Selznick uses to learn about the ways deaf education and culture have evolved.

About the author: Selznick is the 2008 Caldecott recipient for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. He illustrated The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.

"Check it Out" features books recommended to teachers and parents by school librarians and other educators. Have a recommendation? Send suggestions, along with your name and local union, to lfrenett@nysutmail.org.