Thursday, February 18, 2016
The Marvels starts off with 300 pages of pictures. As with his two previous books, Brian Selznick draws the reader into the story with his artful illustrations. The action starts with a play on the deck of a ship, The Kraken, which is interrupted by a violent storm that causes the ship to sink. Billy Marvel is the only survivor. He becomes a famous actor in a London theater, passing his talents onto his adopted son, who was abandoned at the theater as an infant. This becomes a family tradition as future generations of Marvels enter the acting profession, until we get to Leontes. He does not take to acting like his father, grandfather and other Marvels before him. Instead, he is an artist. His parents to not accept this and keep pushing him to act, with disastrous results. Eventually, Leontes decides to leave his family, but a tragedy draws him back to the theater.
The book then brings us to 1990, in which young Joseph has fled from his boarding school and is searching out for his uncle Albert's house in London. He eventually finds it, and is granted permission to stay, for one night only. Joseph winds up staying longer than that, finding out very quickly that something very weird is going on inside the house.
The Marvels was not my favorite of Selnick's books. I like it better when the text and pictures are more interspersed, instead isolated from each other. After the fast-paced story of The Marvels, told by the pictures, I found that Joseph and Albert's story, told by the text, lagged quite a bit in comparison. I also find that the reveal of the connection between the two stories is more suspenseful and dramatic when the reader goes back and forth between the stories. All in all, the book was still enjoyable, just not quite as much as my favorite Selznick book, Wonderstruck. I give The Marvels 4 out of 5 stars.
Every time my students ask me to recommend a book to them I often find myself suggesting a Brian Selznick book. When I take the book from the shelf and hand it to the students their eyes get really big due to the size of the book. I also often hear protests about the book being too long. Then I show the students the inside of the book, and they check it out. I love Selznick's books because they have the perfect mix of drawings and text to pull in the reader. The Marvels follows a similar pattern to Selznick's other books. Another thing I enjoy about these books is the fact that the book seems to focus on two different stories. The stories do not seem related but then you find out that they are. In The Marvels the book begins with pages of pictures that tell the story of a theater family. Then the written parts of the book focus on a boy and his relationship with his uncle. I recommend this book for students who need a book that is high interest. I also recommend this book to anyone who enjoys drawings and fantastic stories. I give The Marvels 5 out of 5 stars.