Friday, November 13, 2015

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Oh Brian Selznick.  I can't even imagine how to move beyond a stick figure when I draw, and you, with your wonderful illustrations just make magic happen.  Brian's previous two novels, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck were incredible stories mixed with his wonderful illustrations.  Both combine to tell stories that tug at your heart.  The Marvels is no different.

In this novel, Selznick puts over 400 pages of illustrations first.  The first part of the story is told through these illustrations. Here are a few examples of his extraordinary talent:

 In the first half of the novel, we start in 1766 aboard a ship, and we meet Billy Marvel, a young boy who has stowed away on his brother's ship.  Adventure is in store for Billy, as well as heartbreak.  He ends up in London, working at a theater, and starts a family that will soon be famous for their theatrical talents.  Generations of Marvels take to the theater, until one day....

 The second half of the novel is prose that builds on the first half of the novel.  It's 1990. We meet Joseph Jervis, a young boy who runs away from boarding school in England to find his uncle Albert Nightingale in London.  Joseph has never met his Uncle Albert, but is miserable in his boarding school (his mother and father "travel" all around the world without him) and Christmas is approaching.  Albert is not your average uncle, and his house is not your average house.  The house is pretty mysterious, and I was sucked into the story from the first page.  Yes, the two stories do tie together, and in a away that surprised me.  I never once figured it out.  

This novel is a true work of art.  It clocks in at over 600 pages, and yes, it is a young reader novel.  I loved the story and had the weepies at the end.  The story speaks about family, legacy, and living a life that makes each of us happy.  It speaks of memories, and the power of imagination.  I was not disappointed, and this novel was worth the wait.  Some reviews I read didn't like the LGBT angle in the novel, but it certainly didn't bother me and actually made the novel all the more poignant.  And remember--it's written for middle schoolers!  So it is age appropriate.  

If you haven't read a Brian Selznick novel, you need to make it a reading goal for 2016.  He usually bases his novels on true life, and will explain at the end of the novel where his inspiration came from, and how he used it to create a wonderful story.  

Rating:  8/10 for a beautifully illustrated novel that tells a powerful story about family.  It's got a permanent place on my bookshelf.  

Available in hardcover and e-book.  But trust me, spend the extra cash and get the hardcover.  So worth it.  


  1. I remember I put off reading Hugo Cabret and then was blown away when I did. Now I am two books behind. Thanks for the review and the reminder!

    1. His books are so fantastic! What a talented author and illustrator.