“The Marvels” by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2015)


Brian Selznick’s two previous works of incredible illustrated historical fiction (The Inventory of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck) revealed his talent for creating this new genre and art form, as indicated by their bestsellerdom and garnered awards. In The Marvels, he does the same thing again, making the reader anxious to get to the end to find what is fact and what is fiction, and what is the whole story behind everything . . . But at the same time they want to savor every page and never want it to end.

The Marvels is a book of two stories. The first is told almost completely in continuous imagery, a flickering movie-like effect of the boy Billy Marvel in 1766 who survives a devastating shipwreck and begins work at a London theatre. Then the reader gets to enjoy the Marvel family through the generations and the many great actors that are spawned until young Leontes Marvel who wants nothing to do with the stage.

In the other story, nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis has run away from school and home and is looking for his uncle in London to stay with for a while and get away from everything. When he finds his uncle, he convinces him to let him stay in the wonderfully unusual house of Albert Nightingale which is kind of a combination of Hearst Castle and Winchester Mystery house, filled with wonders and delights, along with some spooky artifacts that all tell of the great history of the Marvel family.

If The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a tale of history, and Wonderstruck was a tale of love, then The Marvels is a thrilling mystery tale that you won’t be able to put down.

Originally written on January 17, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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