The Marvels

Written by Brian Selznick
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

Brian Selznick has done it again – written and illustrated a pitch-perfect tale that conjures up a lost art of storytelling. As in his blockbuster novels, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, Selznick weaves together two seemingly unrelated stories spanning generations and time periods.

The first portion of the book is told in soft-shaded pencil illustration. Over two centuries ago, an American boy and his brother are passengers on a ship on which they are performing a play. After a shipwreck, the two wash up on British shores, but only the younger boy survives. Time passes, and he becomes an actor at a theater. One day, a baby boy is abandoned there, and Billy takes him in, leading to a theater dynasty family called The Marvels.

In the written version, which is set in the 1990s, a young boy runs away from his boarding school to his Uncle Albert, whom he’s never met. Albert is unhappy to see him and initially mistrusts the boy and treats him poorly. The boy is struck by the home that the uncle lives in; it looks like it’s something out of an earlier century.

This heart-warming story-within-a-story, with family as its central theme, is classic Brian Selznick. The book was inspired by a real-life place called Dennis Severs’ House in London. As with his other books, audiences of all ages will find something to love in The Marvels.