Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret; Wonderstruck), known for his genre-defying storytelling style that marries words and images in unique ways, has a new book on the way: Scholastic will publish his latest novel, Kaleidoscope, this fall. The book is aimed at readers 10 and up and will be simultaneously released in hardcover and ebook formats in the U.S., U.K., and Canada on September 21. PW has an exclusive first look at the cover as well as some insights on the project from Selznick and David Levithan, publisher at Scholastic, who acquired and edited the book.
“Kaleidoscope is about two people who need each other very much,” Selznick said, noting that the book was inspired in many ways by his experience during the first three months of the pandemic. “I was alone in my apartment in New York while my husband was stuck in California. During that time, I started making abstract art, perhaps because it felt like the world was shattering, so my art needed to do something similar.”
Selznick described how the project built from this recent creative exploration. “For the previous five years I’d been working on and off on a book but when I finally was ready to think about the story again, I found myself ripping apart everything I’d already written,” he said. “It was like the narrative was shattering along with everything else, and out of the shards a new book began to take shape. As I worked, certain themes and images kept reappearing: gardens and butterflies, apples, angels, fires, trees, friendship, islands, keys, shipwrecks, grief and love. Each of these elements, like bits of colored glass, turn and transform and rearrange themselves from chapter to chapter into something new. That’s why I decided to call the book Kaleidoscope.”
Selznick’s fans can expect to see something innovative. “Kaleidoscope is a new format for me, but each of my books have always been a new format for me,” Selznick said. “Hugo told one story with words and pictures. Wonderstruck told two stories: one in words and one in pictures, while The Marvels used a narrative entirely in drawings to create a memory that informed a story told afterwards, entirely in text. Now, in Kaleidoscope, the images are used in what may seem to be a more classical fashion—one drawing per chapter [24 chapters in all]—while the narrative itself is meant to fragment and change what you see in your mind. I’ve always loved the idea that when a reader finishes one of my books, they may not remember which parts of the story were illustrated and which parts were text. This may be especially true in Kaleidoscope.”
Levithan shared his enthusiasm for taking on the project. “From the first time I read Kaleidoscope, it reached into a deep, emotional place with me, in a way that few books have,” he said. “Brian’s creativity has always been an astonishment to me, but here he does something that’s, to me, like listening to a Philip Glass piece—you’re caught in this intricate loop, and different movements make different connections, and what might seem simple ends up reaching much farther below the surface than you thought a piece of music could go. That’s what this book is like.”
Levithan noted, “The best word I can use to describe our collaboration is exhilarating. We just dove into the book and whenever we’d go back and forth about it, we’d be giddy,” he said. “In his first draft, Brian included some notes at the end about the sources for some of the elements in the story. I refused to read it. I wanted to meet the story on its own terms, and to be completely unaware of its influences—I still don’t know what they are,” he added.
“I am sure there are some things in the story that I, as a reader, have yet to see,” Levithan said. “And there were some things in the story that Brian hadn’t realized were there until I saw them and brought them to light. A year from now, after everyone’s read the book, he and I will be able to tell some great stories about the making of it. But right now, I don’t want to influence how anyone reads it. The joy of this book is finding the story yourself. That’s certainly what Brian and I did.”
Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick. Scholastic, $19.99 US/$26.99 Canada Sept. 21 ISBN 978-1-338-77724-6