The Marvels by Brian Selznick

marvels smallerI read The Marvels by Brian Selznick for The 2016 Reading Challenge: a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller. When the librarians behind the desk eagerly discuss a book when I ask a question about it, I know to expect a good read. In the case of The Marvels, the librarian not only recommended it, but asked that I return and let her know what I thought. You don’t have to ask me twice! I wonder if she has any idea how seriously I plan to do just that.

If you haven’t read anything by Brian Selznick (I hadn’t.), his books are very thick but not very long, by virtue of parts of the story being told in full-page illustrations.The Marvels has two main story arcs that weave together as the book progresses. The fist story, which follows a family of actors through five generations (and fires and shipwrecks and tragedy and love), is told entirely through black-and-white illustrations. While I was reading the beginning of the book, my art-loving child would peek over my shoulder from time to time to check out the drawings. The second story is told in prose, though the very end of the book reverts back to drawings. While I love the style (My fear was that it would feel gimmicky. It did not.), the book is thick. It does not make the kind of book I can simply tuck in my bag and be on my way. (Or hold open one-handed while I make dinner. If I were ever inclined to do that sort of thing, of course.) I read the book curled up on the couch on a snow day, so the size didn’t bother me.

I was delighted to find an author’s note at the end of the book describing the true story that inspired the book. Like any good inspired-by-a-true-story novel, this one had me searching online for details and pictures long after I finished the book. There is a little bit of mystery and lots of redemption in the book. I finished it with a warm, satisfied feeling not unlike after a cup of hot chocolate.

I would most certainly urge you to read the book first, but if you absolutely must know more about the subject matter before cracking the cover, here is a bit about the inspiration for the novel.

I would recommend this to: a child who is fond of mysteries, theater, or is just getting into reading chapter books solo.


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