I thought it after reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and I think it even more so now after reading Wonderstruck: Brian Selznick is pretty much a genius. Like its predecessor, this novel has also created buzz within awards committees (last I heard, it was under consideration for both a Newbery and a Caldecott). I liked it better than I liked its predecessor, but as is the case with book reviews, that's a matter of my own opinion.
This novel follows two parallel stories: one story takes place in the 192os, as movies are making a transition from silent film to talking. The other takes place in the 1970s. The 1920s-era story features a young deaf girl in New York who is essentially kept under lock and key, because her family feels it too dangerous for someone deaf to venture into the noisy, noisy world without a guide. She makes building models with the sign language books her teacher provides. She escapes and ventures into the city to seek something bigger--and also, to seek out her brother.
In 1970, a young boy whose mother has just died returns to their cabin, and loses his hearing due to a lightning strike. While he was in the cabin, he had found information for the man he thinks is his father. In spite of his deafness, he too ventures to New York City--where the information shows his father lived and worked.
As is always the case with parallel stories, the two inevitably intertwine. As always, Selznick's drawings are immensely detailed and tell a story all their own. And I find this book so much more phenomenal because of the way Selznick uses his graphic novel medium to show what type of experience a deaf person may have had. You can't help but notice how much attention you are paying to both the text and the pictures, and you can't help but realize as you read that this is to a large extent how someone deaf would interact with their world--through text and picture.
But it doesn't call attention to this emphasis in any kind of distracting way. If anything, it adds to the experience of novel and allows a reader to empathize--if even for a couple of hours--with what a deaf experience might be like. And that's what good books do. They help illustrate experience.