cover image The Marvels

The Marvels

Brian Selznick. Scholastic Press, $32.99 (672p) ISBN 978-0-545-44868-0

Selznick imagines an alternate backstory for a real English tourist attraction, the Dennis Severs’ House: 10 meticulously curated rooms that suggest what life might have been like for a family of Huguenot silk weavers in 18th-century London. The first 500 pages are double-page pencil drawings that (almost) wordlessly tell the story of the Marvel family, beginning with a 1766 shipwreck and following successive generations as they gain fame in London’s theater community. As he did in his Caldecott Medal–winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick uses a telescoping point of view with great success, bringing the audience effortlessly from the general to the specific, from wide shot to close-up. The next 200 pages are prose, jumping forward to 1990 when a boy named Joseph Jervis has run away from boarding school in search of an uncle he has never met. Uncle Albert, who lives in a home maintained in much the same way as the Dennis Severs’ House, has been reclusive ever since losing his “beloved” to AIDS, but Joseph and the neighbor girl he befriends, Frankie, refuse to stay away. Viewed narrowly, it’s a love letter to the Dennis Severs’ House, but readers won’t need preexisting knowledge of the museum to enjoy this powerful story about creating lasting art and finding family in unexpected places. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)