The Marvels

by Brian Selznick

Other authorsBrian Selznick (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2015

Call number




Scholastic Press (2015), Edition: Illustrated, 672 pages


In 1766, a boy, Billy Marvel, is shipwrecked, rescued, and goes on to found a brilliant family of actors that flourishes in London until 1900--and nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis, runs away from home, seeking refuge with his uncle in London, and is captivated by the Marvel house, with its portraits and ghostly presences.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Brainannex
As an adult reading this book, I loved it and had my heart suitably punched by the story and Selznick's great mix of art and prose. I do wonder if kids reading this book will have the same emotional response to it because there is a lot between the lines that informs the story.
LibraryThing member MaowangVater
Starting in 1766 with a terrible storm at sea that interrupts a shipboard performance of “The Angel and the Dragon” is the story without words of the Marvel family, generation after generation of actors. It’s a saga that ends at the end of the nineteenth century in the conflagration of a
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London theatre.

Then—390 pages later—the narrative suddenly shifts from pictures to purely prose. It’s 1990, and young Joseph Jervis has run away from boarding school to his uncle’s home in London. But what a strange home it is, a Victorian mansion that looks as if its inhabitants had just stepped away from their dinner table. Joseph keeps hearing the sound of a bird coming from an empty cage, and people talking behind the walls. But the only living resident is his uncle Albert. Albert Nightingale is a cross, moody recluse. He positively radiates resentment at Joseph’s arrival and plea to stay. Joseph might set the place on fire! And if a grumpy uncle’s not bad enough, on his first night in the house Joseph wakes up to see a ghost!

This is a book within a book, a picture story wrapped around a tale of a tale, and throughout them both appears the motto, “You either see it or you don’t” or its Latin equivalent “Aut Visum Aut Non.” What’s on the surface may not be the fact, but a veil obscuring the truth. The reader follows Joseph in the prose narrative attempting to uncover the facts, only to reveal deep emotional ties masquerading in theatrical disguise. A building ablaze or a storm at sea is a pandemic of death. But even death does not extinguish memory and imagination, and while weeping endures for a night, joy is revealed in the morning.
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LibraryThing member paula-childrenslib
The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. Nearly a century later,
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Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with a reclusive uncle in London. Albert Nightingale's strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.
True to Selznick's story telling, there are black and white illustrations which take up a majority of the book. This time the text block is in section and the books starts with illustrations and ends with it too.
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LibraryThing member lindamamak
Another great story from Brian Selznick, 1/2 done in drawings and 1/2 words.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
Beautiful! I just love Selznick's books and this one is no exception. About 2/3 of the way through the narrative switches from images only to text only. That through me for a bit of a loop and it took me awhile to adjust, but it worked perfectly with the storyline. This one starts in the 1700s with
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a shipwreck and then follows the Marvel family through generations of life in the theatre. Two centuries later we neet a young boy and his eccentric uncle who is living in London. Highly recommended for any fans of the author's work.
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LibraryThing member ditani
This book starts with pictures. The pictures are about the Marvels, a family of famous actors. The book starts in 1776. Next the text starts in 1990. It is about a boy named Joseph who ran away from home and found his mysterious uncle, Albert Nightingale. He meets a boy named Frankie who helps him
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find his uncle's secrets. In the end, how mysterious will Albert really be?

I like this book because of the great pencil drawings. It's amazing that the author drew them all. I also like it because in the end the pictures connect to the text. I recommend this book to people who like a good challenge and fans of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck.
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LibraryThing member StefanieGeeks
All of Selznick's books are historical and focus on a relationship between a kid, an adult, and what family means. His pencil illustrations are incredibly detailed and a gorgeous addition to the telling of his stories. The Marvels did not disappoint my expectations and I enjoyed it more than
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Wonderstruck. There is a greater mystery here and a lovely family story. It's a classic take on two outcasts finding and healing each other and I would recommend it to any middle grade reader.
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LibraryThing member Beammey
I thought the illustrations in this book were BEAUTIFUL. So captivating and told the story so well through just pictures. I couldn't wait to turn the page to see what happened next! Then the words came and while the story wasn't bad and it definitely kept you guessing, I was just...sort of
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disappointed? I don't know. It had a good ending and everything was explained, but this book wasn't for me as much as I thought it would be. I would still recommend it though because I did enjoy it. 4 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member BillieBook
I think this might be my favorite Selznick so far. I loved the meta-ness of the story and I adored Joseph and Albert and Frankie. This is the first time one of Selznick's books has made me weep openly and being someone who appreciates an emotional whammy of a book, that weeping immediately earned
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it favorite status. As always, the illustrations are gorgeous and the story they tell is rich and layered. It is the prose section, though, that really grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go and I sincerely hope that Joseph got the future he imagined for himself.

If you're lucky enough to get ahold of an advance copy, don't take that for granted. If you have to wait until publication to discover 'The Marvels', then be assured, it's well worth the wait.
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LibraryThing member Jlporrata75
“The Marvels” by Brian Selznick narrates two stories that are separate in time but connected thru the main characters stories. First story narrated in images starts on 1766 with a shipwreck and continues in London throughout the rest of the 18th century until 1900. This first part of the story
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takes place in a fictional theater in London, and talks about the Marvels, a family of actors spanning five generations. Author spent some time living in London and toured many theaters to base his drawings on, plus extensive research. Besides the faithful representation of how was to live and put a play in a theater, Selznick uses publications like newspapers from the time to tell the story. Reader can appreciate the historical setting thru costumes, the architecture of the theater, and the newspapers prints. Brian Selznick notes are always a bonus in any of his novels. There I found out that this story is base on a real house (a house that is central to the second part of the story) with same London’s address as in the book, 18 Folgate St in the Spitalfields borough. Then Albert (the uncle of main character) is modeled after the creator of this actual house/museum, Dennis Severs, who was an artist.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
The Marvels is another tour de force by Brian Selznick, who has pioneered this particular format of illustrated novel. In the first half of the book, through illustrations, we follow the story of a theatrical family in London. The second half of the book, in text, is the story of a troubled young
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boy in the 1990s who runs away from school and ends up with his curmudgeonly uncle, who lives in a most extraordinary house. The two stories come together in magical and surprising ways.

I enjoyed this book more than Wonderstruck but not as much as Hugo Cabret. I've seen the three books referred to as a series, or companion novels, but they are really tied together only by format, as there is no overlap in characters or plot that I can see. I found the story intriguing, and now I have another place on the list of attractions to visit next time I go to London!
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LibraryThing member nicholsm
Beautiful story enclosed in a beautiful book design!
LibraryThing member Dreesie
Great drawings, great story, interesting history that led to this story (and I was glad that it was in the afterword, not a foreword!). Selznick is very very good at what he does.
LibraryThing member ChristianR
Like his previous books, Selznick's The Marvels begins with pages upon pages of pen and ink drawings that gorgeously introduce and propel the story. Then he turns to prose, which completes the story. The drawings start with a shipwreck in 1766 with a lone survivor, who ultimately is rescued and
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becomes an actor. Subsequent generations continue the acting tradition until a fire destroys the theater -- and the reader is left not knowing whether the youngest of the family successfully escapes the fire. When the book moves to prose a new and more modern-day character, Joseph, is running away from his boarding school to find an uncle in London whom he has never met. The two story-lines ultimately connect. Very touching.
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LibraryThing member ComposingComposer
The Marvels was not as good as Brian Selznick's other books. The first three quarters of this book was pictures, with the last quarter being text, and, though it took me a while to figure out what was going on in the picture story, I became quite invested in it. Then I got to the text portion. The
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characters in the last quarter of the book were annoying. They didn't have much character development, and I became frustrated by them. I found myself counting the pages until I'd be done with the book. Perhaps the book would have been as compelling as The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck if it had had alternating text and pictures like those two had. At any rate, while I still enjoyed parts of this book, it was a disappointment after Selznick's other books.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
What an astounding book this is! The first graphic section forces the reader to extrapolate a story that is continued in the second printed section. Lovely 2-page illustrations lead us through a remarkable story...[in progress]
LibraryThing member marsap
“You either see it or you don’t.” –thus starts the incredibly inventive children’s book The Marvels. The Marvels consists of two stand-alone stories-- the first told primarily in illustrations and the second told primarily in words.—with an overlap between the two books that creates a
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mystery. Told in illustrations, the journey begins at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theatre. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. In the second story, runaway Joseph Jervis seeks refuge with his uncle Albert in London. Albert Nightingale's strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past. The mystery for the reader is to decipher how the two stories connect. Themes of love, loss and the healing power of storytelling are presented beautifully. The illustrations are lovely and add to the mystery (and the clues). A great family read. 5 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member AliceaP
The Marvels is his newest work and combines two stories into one. The first half is told entirely through pictures and is incredibly moving and beautiful. If I didn't convey this before, I find Selznick's art highly compelling and capable of telling a story without words being necessary. That
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didn't stop me from loving the second half of the book which is told from a different perspective and through text alone. The ending is a delightful mixture of the two which makes total sense with the narrative. It's difficult to explain this one without giving anything away but I'll give it my best shot. There's a boy who runs away, a sad man living in a house which has its own lively spirit, a girl chasing a dog, and the pangs of first love. Selznick touches on topics such as abandonment, homosexuality, AIDS, death, and ultimately coming into one's own. It's all about the choices that we make and the people that we want to become. It's phenomenal and maybe my favorite of the lot. 10/10
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LibraryThing member Auntie-Nanuuq

The book begins with 389 /- pages of pencil drawings, that are not even good drawings, mostly monochromatic & mono-valuation. They apparently tell the story of the Marvel family from 1766 up until the written portion of the book on page 392 that begins in 1990 and ends on page 603 and then takes up
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with drawings again on 604-647 for the conclusion.

All centering around two brothers on a ship called the Kracken and their little white terrier "Tar"..... The family somehow gets into the Theater & succeeding generations follow all suffering from loss & tragedy, linked to the shipwreck of the Kracken.

I didn't get through the last 300 pages, it was written in a manner meant to confuse (and irritate) as the writing was terse with the main character caught up in the harshness, anger & insanity of his Uncle.......
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LibraryThing member benuathanasia
The initial pictures were wonderful, but the story as a whole felt...pointless? Boring? Stilted?
LibraryThing member quondame
Beautiful book about lost loves and the power of stories and of making dreams real. 400+ pages of dramatic pencil illustrations, 200 of text which includes an poignant explanation of the illustrated story and so much more.
LibraryThing member streamsong
This is a ‘mixed media’ very long YA novel. There are several hundred pages of an opening wordless graphic novel, telling the story of a shipwreck in the 1790’s and of the sole survivor, a boy named Billy Marvel, who was rescued and made his way to London. As a sailor familiar with ropes, he
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found work backstage at a London theater. Although Billy worked on the sets, he became the founder of a family dynasty of famous actors whom we follow through five generations. It’s a magical story with an angel figuring largely along with high adventure and flamboyant characters.

The author then switches to a non-illustrated story set in 1990 of a boy who fled his hated boarding school to his unknown uncle in London. The uncle is an eccentric recluse, having his house staged with scenes such as half eaten banquets which the boy is forbidden to touch. The lonely boy explores the hidden territory of the house and finds the traces of the story of the Marvels. He believes his uncle is a descendant of the family, but the only way to find out is to pierce his Uncle’s very private shell to find the true story.

And, finally, once more we return to the third section, again, wordless graphic novel.

Selznick’s illustrations are amazing. The mystery of the how the sections relate was a surprise to me – one I had not anticipated. However, this book is 600 pages long. It takes a lot of commitment and I’m afraid mine waned before the story ended.
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LibraryThing member wrightja2000
I was intrigued by the first half of the book. The second half dragged on and on. I was reading it as an ebook so I couldn't tell how much longer the story was and there were at least half a dozen times I expected to turn the page and read "The End". The mystery was rather disappointing as well.
LibraryThing member SamMusher
This was not the book I thought it was going to be. It's better. About the power of art, and chosen families, and I don't want to say any more because it's important not to know what's coming.

What made me sob most was that this is an AIDS story, and I'd had no idea. The strange uncle Joseph runs
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away to meet in 1990 is a gay man in his thirties who has already lost his partner to AIDS and who is HIV-positive himself. AIDS is briefly mentioned -- you die of it, some mystery and fear surround it, Princess Diana visited a clinic to show that you can't get it by touching people; that is all the young reader is told. What else would a reader born in the 2000s bring to this story? For them, AIDS is a disease associated with Africa, not gay men. An old theater hand, telling Joseph about Uncle Albert's partner, says he was "[o]ne of the first, I'm afraid. ....We've been losing so many of our friends." None of my students, unless AIDS was part of their family story or they'd happened to watch a movie or read a more explicit book about that time, would pick up on that at all. It's an important part of recent history and I'm grateful to books like this for dropping the clues that I hope my students will pick up on later.
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LibraryThing member steller0707
You see it or you don't ....

Part illustrations, part written story; partly set in the 18th and 19th centuries, but partly set in 1990, what draws these two worlds together? That is the challenge to readers in this imaginative book. It's a delight for young readers as well as adults. Any more will
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be a spoiler. Read it with fresh eyes for maximum enjoyment!
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0545448689 / 9780545448680


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