This book is, in short, a piece of art. There are two main characters in the book, and we follow each of their stories in two different ways: Ben, who recently lost his mother in an accident, we read about in the written part of the book, and Rose, the deaf girl, we follow in Brian Selznick’s beautiful illustrations.
In the beginning, the only thing the two characters seem to have in common is to have a different life. Ben lives with his aunt and uncle, and has to share bedroom with his cousin. Ben feels, in many ways, alienated from the rest of his family. He has only one ear that he can hear with, and has an interesting of collecting things, and for the stars.
One night Ben sees a light in his and his mother’s house, and goes over, to find one of his cousins wearing his mother’s clothes. This makes him angry and sad, and she apologies. Though she heads back to her parents’ house, he stays behind. Shortly after, a thunderstorms starts. He decides to stay a bit longer, in the hopes for the storm to ease, and he starts to go through some of his mother’s thing. He then finds something that gives him a clue on where to find his father, that he longs for, but has never known. One of the things he finds is a phone number, and he picks up the phone to try to give his dad a ring. As he does this, a lightning strikes, and he wakes up to find himself without the ability to hear at all. Even though Ben is now deaf, he refuses to give up on his father, now that he finally knows where to look, and on his own he sets out to try find him…
Rose is, as mentioned, deaf, and has been all her life. She scrapbooks everything she can find about a mysterious actress, and after a while she runs away from home to the big city to find her.
The two stories starts decades apart, but after a while they are woven into one. This is done in a wonderful way, and I must say I loved the book. The over 600 pages just flew, and the illustrations are so alive and vivid they tell more than a thousand words!
I also liked the fact that the main characters of the book can’t hear. Alas, there are not many books around with deaf people as the centre of the story. It’s interesting to see the world in a somewhat different perspective.
Though this probably would be seen as a children’s book, I have no problems recommending it to grown ups. The story has so many layers, and I’m sure we pick up things a kid probably will not. However, even though there might be elements kids miss out on, the story still works brilliantly. Maybe one of those books you could read together?