…time is supposed to move forward,” said Frankie.
“But what if you don’t like what happens?”
“Then…you change it.”
— The Marvels
An angel with a lantern. A terrifying shipwreck. A new life, in a new theatre.
Brian Selznick’s latest novel, The Marvels, begins in 1766, with four hundred pages of uninterrupted illustrations spanning a century and a half in the lives of a theatre dynasty. Billy Marvel survives a catastrophic shipwreck as a child and finds himself orphaned and alone in the hands of a new theatre company. Decades later, he finds a baby by the stage door, and raises him as his own son.
Generation after generation of Marvels takes the stage: Marcus; Alexander; Oberon; Leonthes. They are famed and acclaimed Shakespeare performers, and together the Marvels make the Royal Theatre a destination not to be missed. But tragedy must strike once again, and the last pages of illustration are full of white-hot flames.
The prose narrative begins in 1990, with Joseph, a young boy who has run away from boarding school. His parents are world travelers, but he feels overlooked and unnoticed. He seeks out an estranged uncle in a strange, antiquated home.
Selznick’s stories are as enthralling as always; mysterious and dramatic. I found myself turning pages almost too quickly to read them, desperate to know what would happen next, how these two stories fit together. Where was Leonthes Marvel? Who was this strange uncle? How was Joseph related to the Marvels?
What I discovered was a rich, captivating world. Selznick’s signature illustration style is expressive and detailed, and his story is full of twists and surprises. Uncle Albert’s house, inspired by a real location in Spitalfields, London, is a character of its own, as integral to the story as Billy Marvel himself.
Weaving together fantasy and mystery, historical and contemporary settings, The Marvels is suspenseful and intriguing. It was easy, as a reader, to fall in love with the characters, the ghosts, and the history, and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears at the ending. It fits in beautifully with the legacy begun in The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonder Struck–and is a strong contender for this year’s Caldecott Award.
I will be reading The Marvels again, that’s for certain.
~ Demi, Kids Inventory & Marketing Manager
Join us for an evening of wonder, magic and marvels with Brian Selznick at Westlake Performing Arts Center October 24th! Tickets and more information available at bookpeople.com