Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels by Brian Selznick. 664 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., September 15, 2015. 9780545448680. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

So. There has been a bit of fanfare around the Interwebz for the past couple of weeks. The genre-blending, format-smashing Brian Selznick has a new book. And Scholastic is rolling out the red carpet. Literally.

There was a big launch at BEA. Mr. Selznick spoke at SLJ Day of Dialog (kicking myself for being unable to attend) and there was this little party. Thankfully, I was able to attend that.

Scholastic took over the Hudson Theater for a cocktail party and presentation, ending with a signing. The Hudson is a venerable theater on 44th Street. It's small and intimate with a beautiful stage and lots of architectural features for the eye to roam over. A red carpet was rolled out and huge posters advertising The Marvels were hung in the glass cases on either side of the theater doors. 

Selznick's multi-media presentation and talk about his journey birthing this story was inspiring, touching and totally charming. Honestly, if you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, grab it.

Weighing in at nearly 700 pages, The Marvels is a brick of a book. I should know. I forgot it was in my backpack when I went to Boston with the seventh grade the morning after the big party. I stowed it there hoping to read it on the bus and before turning in that night. I should've left it on the bus because once we disembarked, we were on the go until dinner at our hotel.

Worth the hype? In a word, yes. Selznick has created something epic here. I am going to be maddeningly vague about the storyline though; because you should discover the wonders for yourself.  

The first 492 pages are told in illustration. Page after page of double-page pencil drawings depict several generations of the Marvel family beginning in 1766. This is no flip-o-rama here. Do not pass quickly over them! Allow yourself to get sucked into each and every one, please.

The text part of the story begins in 1990 with Joseph, lost in London, without the foggiest notion of finding the address of an uncle he never knew he had. Joseph has run away from his boarding school where he doesn't fit in. Nor does he fit in at home apparently, as his parents are constantly traveling and seem disinterested in him. Thanks to a stroke of luck, Joseph does manage to find his uncle's house when a child who is chasing down a stray dog collides with him. Unfortunately for Joseph, his uncle is none too happy to meet him. His uncle and the house is filled with mystery. Joseph feels like he stepped back in time. Is the house haunted? Why is the table set for a party? Where is that bird sound coming from? Who is that boy in the photo, with red hair, like Joseph's?

Patience is required here and pays off near the end. As the pieces click quietly into place, there will be gasps, sighs and tears. This complex, multilayered tale is, okay, I've been resisting using this word, a marvel. Readers won't want to leave the world Brian Selznick has brought so vividly to life. I love that fugue state that I get when I finish a satisfying story. I didn't want to start a new book and I find my thoughts returning to the book again and again. 

This won't take much selling with my students. I have duplicate copies of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck and they are rarely on the shelf. In fact, one of my students spied my arc and begged me for it. I am certain she will bring a buddy when (if) she returns it to me. Budget for multiple copies of The Marvels. A book trailer is in the works, so keep an eye out for it as well.

Highly recommended!

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