Our book club met over the weekend at Novel Places, and despite being two members short, we had a great discussion. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick was one of the books nominated by The Girl (age 11), which means she led the discussion all on her own. She wanted me to be ready to help if she needed it, but believe me, she was so well prepared and so confident, that she basically told me to stay quiet. We’d read the book together, but she came up with an entire page of discussion questions on her own.
**Please be aware that this post could contain spoilers**
One of the main characters in the book, Ben, collects things, seemingly small and insignificant things, but they actually have a lot of meaning. He keeps these things in a museum box, and Selznick writes about people being the curators of their own museums. The Girl asked us what we would display in our museums, and all of our answers were quite different. The Girl would put her favorite stuffed animals and some of her drawings in her museum, while I said the artwork she’s made me over the years, family photos, and of course, my Jane Austen collection would be in mine.
The Girl also encouraged us to discuss what we thought about the structure of the book, telling Ben’s story in words and Rose’s story in pictures, and whether we were surprised by how Selznick connected the two stories by the end. It was cute that she said a lot of the revelations were “Captain Obvious,” given that we had the book figured out by the halfway point. Most of us liked the way Selznick told the story, but one member liked the individual plot threads but didn’t think they all should have been included in the same book.
We also talked about whether any part of the book surprised us; for me and The Girl, it was Rose’s connection to the woman in her scrapbook. Other things we touched upon were the meaning of an Oscar Wilde quote that seemed like it was supposed to be important (“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”); how Ben and Rose coped with being deaf (one having had speech, one having no real way to communicate) and whether Rose’s parents, given the time period, sheltered her too much; which story we liked better, with Ben’s winning the most votes; how some of us wished there had been more about Ben’s museum friend, Jamie; and how surprisingly deep Wonderstruck was for a middle-grade novel.
The Girl led the discussion like a pro, and I was so proud of her. I’m also thankful that the members of our book club have embraced her and made her feel welcome. She might not be able to join in the discussion for every book, but when she can, so certainly goes all out. And I appreciate that they were willing to read a middle-grade novel and think about its intended audience, rather than simply dismiss it as a children’s book.
Next month’s book is When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, nominated by Serena. I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile, so I’m really excited. My husband has already finished it and is getting on my case to start it because he’s having a hard time keeping quiet. He thinks it’s the perfect book for a heated discussion. I can’t wait!!
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