February 17, 2018

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The Marvels by Brian Selznick | SLJ Review

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MarvelsSelznick, Brian. The Marvels. illus. by Brian Selznick. 672p. Scholastic. Sept. 2015. Tr $32.99. ISBN 9780545448680.

Gr 4-6–This brilliant journey through time in words and pictures is also a story of a theatrical family and their fortunes. This heavy tome opens to tell of one family, the Marvels, from 1766 to 1900 as their connection to the Royal Theatre in London begins and perhaps ends. In the first half of the book, all of this complex history is vividly conveyed through illustrations, with minor hints from playbills, cards, and letters that appear as part of the art. Selznick’s ability to convey the passing of time and connections among characters is remarkable. Characters appear, shine, and disappear throughout the years, but certain motifs recur no matter where the spotlight is focused. The second portion of the story is conveyed entirely in text, building on the same themes but taking place in 1990 in a very different London, where the echoes from the past are particularly embodied in 13-year-old Joseph, a boarding school runaway searching for his uncle’s house. He soon meets Uncle Albert, who seems less interested in getting to know his nephew than in the preservation of an anachronistic Victorian house which is more museum than home. The echoes from the earlier history are haunting, requiring Joseph to delve into the secrets of Uncle Albert and of the house without giving away his own. Selznick ends with a satisfying section of illustrations that embody the maxim of this family, “You either see it or you don’t.” VERDICT Complex, entertaining, and full of gorgeous art and writing, this is a powerhouse of a book.–Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

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