Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Story of How I was Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick Who...

Is amazing.  I had the opportunity to see Brian speak at the Central Library in Philadelphia yesterday as part of their author series.  I had heard about Brian coming to the area to promote his new book, Wonderstruck, after meeting illustrator Matt Phelan at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival.  He pointed me in the direction of Children's Book World in Haverford, PA.  I checked out their website that day (which, as I now recall was also the day of my surprise birthday party...hmm) and discovered that Brian Selznick would be coming to the store to present.  I planned to go to the event, but then I learned that Central Library was also hosting Brian during the day.  For free.  Free trumps ticketed any day for me.  Children's Book World still provided the books for the event, so I felt good that my purchases on behalf of our library would support an independent bookstore.

I first read The Invention of Hugo Cabret as an audiobook last winter, not even realizing, at first, all of the amazing images I was missing out on.  But the audiobook came with a DVD.  I watched the DVD and was treated to my very own "author visit" with Brian Selznick and learned more about his concepts integrating the idea of a silent film into his story via the illustrations.  I had been planning to talk to fourth graders about different books that had been made into movies and was able to introduce this book in that way, talking about early cinema and the integration of a "movie" concept into this book.  And that was BEFORE I knew it was being made into a movie!!  During this unit, we segwayed (not the moving scooter, though that would be fun) into preparing for our author visit and adapting her books into movie scripts (also potentially useful as reader's theater scripts) and promoting her books via movie posters.

I've gotten a bit away from Brian, haven't I?  I'll re-focus now.  As I was saying, I had the opportunity to see Brian Selznick yesterday.  I arrived an hour early expecting swarms of people.  There were not, but I stand firm that there should have been.  Regardless, I purchased my books and got a great seat right down front.

As I was sitting, I was simultaneously realizing that Brian Selznick was RIGHT THERE.  He was in the row in front of me chatting up a fourth grade girl...RIGHT THERE. So, I did what came naturally in the situation and eavesdropped like crazy.  He was so kind and personable.  He talked about seeing the making of the movie and how many automatons they made and the girl expressed that she hoped he got to keep one and he expressed that he hoped so too (so do I by the way, but they didn't ask me).  He told her how the director had made the scenes just like his pictures (it is  remarkable) and he also shared that there would be a sign language interpreter for his presentation because his book, Wonderstruck, features deaf characters.  

Shortly thereafter, his presentation began.  He spoke about the process of creating The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the experience of having it made into a movie, directed by Martin Scorcese (he showed a picture of Martin Scorcese showing the two main characters a picture from the book as their "direction"- makes his job sorta easy if you ask me), and the process of creating a book following the huge success of Hugo.  He was worried that people would read it because of the success of Hugo but that it wouldn't be any good.  Could he have been more wrong?  

Highlights include watching the movie trailer.  Chills.

Brian explained the process of researching for Wonderstruck.  He started by telling us about a documentary called Through Deaf Eyes and how watching it caused him to realize that, like an artist growing up in a family of non-artists one day finds his community, so too do deaf individuals find their community of people with similar life experiences and that was, in part, his inspiration.  

Other inspiration includes a diorama of two wolves from the American Museum of Natural History in the 1920's set in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota; The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (and the author whose E. In E.L. Stands for Elaine; the replica of the five boroughs of New York City found in Queens; and the meteor also found in the American Museum of Natural History.

Brian Selznick is an amazing and inspiring author and illustrator to see speak.  If you have the opportunity, please go.  He explained to children about the editing and drafting process with pictures from his own editor and showed pictures of the wall covered in his artwork for the book.  Incredible.

To top it all off, while waiting in line to have the books signed, I gave the name of our school library to the post it man and the woman standing directly behind me was a fellow school librarian in a neighboring district and a resident of  my own district.  Her daughter graduated from the high school just two years ago!  We connected and exchanged emails to collaborate in the future. 

But the real icing on the cake was the woman who waited the entire time I was talking to my new friend because she thought she recognized me from the slideshow... As Brian's agent.  If only.... Another lifetime, I suppose.

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