4th Grade Read Aloud: Wonderstruck

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

Although this behemoth of a book looks daunting by page size alone, we found Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick to be a very good and accessible story. This unique and intriguing novel features Ben, a boy who recently lost his mother. In his search to find his father in New York City, the story transitions from text to illustrations as we learn about Rose, though only through pictures. Her story takes place fifty years earlier, in 1929. Both characters’ lives start to intersect in what seemed at first to be two totally different paths.

Without giving away too much, this book is one-of-a-kind. For example, even though both main characters struggle with hearing loss, they are able to communicate with others through construction of paper buildings, sign language and reading lips. How many stories do you know where the majority of the cast has a disability?

The connection to the author’s other work, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, goes only as far as the fact that each story transitions from text to illustrations and back. In Wonderstruck, the author carefully places clues for the reader to find and think about how Rose’s and Ben’s lives meet together. It makes this novel engaging and keeps you hanging from chapter to chapter. There was a true purpose to both means of communication with Wonderstruck. The ending was very rewarding.

Overall, this is a book highly recommended for grades four and up.

-Ms. Steffes’ 4th graders

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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