Scholastic Press, September 2015
I believe that, right before blowing out every single candle on the cake, a young reader somewhere made a spectacular wish for a book filled with gorgeous illustrations and a fabulous, fanciful story rich with quirky characters, adventure and mystery. Mr. Selznick fulfilled this wish in grand fashion.
To open The Marvels is to be immediately immersed in a harrowing adventure at sea. In the blink of an eye….or to be precise, the turn of several pages, invested in the story of a shipwreck with spunky survivors. Illustrations that seem to float above the pages “tell” a compelling, heart-tugging tale. Delightful drawings seem to reach out and wrap around the reader, securing you in the story well before Mr. Selznick weaves his word magic.
When Mr. Selznick does put his pen to paper to write rather than draw, the result is no less stunning. His young, out-of-place-and-underfoot main character, Joseph, embodies awkward instances we’ve all endured. In his earnest desire to genuinely bond, to actually belong…he easily elicits empathy.
When the sweet, stubborn boy tracks down his eclectic, enigmatic uncle in London, Joseph is sure he’s off to a terrible start. Genuine curiosity, compassionate neighbors and most importantly, time, make the reunion more palatable and the untold story of Joseph’s past is slowly revealed.
In a sly, subtle shift, Mr. Selznick spins two separate, yet supporting stories in one brilliant book. Both with breathtaking backdrops: The Marvel family in the theatre and Joseph’s in his uncle’s frozen-in-time home. In the end, it seemed that I was moved by two different families. I was close, but not correct.
My very favorite parts of the book occurred to me days after I’d finished the story. Mr. Selznick managed to encompass serious social issues such as loss, suddenly and inexplicably; alongside of loss that is excruciating slow, as two men deeply in love are both infected with AIDS. Intrigued and impressed, I finished the book by reading the Afterword, where Mr. Selznick sprung one more surprise. A large part of this fantasy is based loosely on the lives of two very real people.
Reviewed by jv poore, February 2016.