Genres: Historical Fiction, Sequential Art
Format Read: Hardback
Published by Scholastic Press on September 15th 2015
Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!
Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.
I loved the movie Hugo when I first watched it, but I never found the time to read the book that this amazing movie was adapted from (The Invention of Hugo Cabret). Right now, I feel silly because I’ve since experienced the beauty of Brian Selznick’s words and illustrations.
For those that have read and enjoyed the storytelling style in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, then you’ll definitely enjoy The Marvels too. The style is very similar — a combination of illustrations followed by words. Both the images and words are powerful, connected together to form the whole story. The story is incomplete without one or the other.
The Marvels begin with a series of illustrations that follow a famous theatre family of the same name. Their ancestor Bill Marvel survived a shipwreck (losing his older brother) and made his way to London in the 1766 with his faithful dog Tar, where he spent his life working at the newly built theatre. There, he raises an abandoned baby, who turns out to be a natural on stage. As the illustrations continue, we follow the history of the Marvel family until the story suddenly ends with the youngest Marvel — Leontes — trapped in the burning theatre while trying to save his delusional grandfather.
Skip forward to 1990 and the story follows a boy called Joseph who has run away from boarding school. Two seemingly unrelated stories begin to collide as Joseph arrives at his estranged uncle’s house in London, where everything seems to be stuck in the 1800s. As the story unravels, the reader and Joseph slowly pieces together the mystery of The Marvels, and discovers what happened to Leontes.
I absolutely ADORED this book guys. The illustrations were stunning, and I became so invested in the lives of the Marvels — every single one of them, from the dog Tar to Leo who ran into a burning theatre to save his grandfather.It’s amazing how much a picture/illustration can say. In just 400 pages, I grew to love them and was just as shocked when the story suddenly ended. I didn’t want them to go, and I didn’t really care about the story that followed. Give me back the Marvels any day!
But, of course their story had to end in order for the book to progress.
Joseph’s story ties into the Marvels’. Bit by bit, we uncover the mystery behind the famous family, and how Joseph’s estranged uncle knows so much about them. While Joseph’s part was a nice addition, the drawcard of this book would still have to be the first 400 pages of illustrations. The Marvels really popped off the page in a way that Joseph’s story didn’t. Joseph’s part was slow compared to the beginning, where I was madly flipping through the pages because I just had to know what happened next. It doesn’t hurt that the story followed so well either.
I still enjoyed Joseph’s part, and how everything ended … but it just wasn’t that exciting y’know? Not when it followed that awesome beginning.
Still, I really loved this book. The style of storytelling was so fun and quite a unique read for me. I would highly recommend that you give The Marvels a go!
Thank you to Scholastic Australia for sending a copy in exchange for an honest review.