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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Marvels, by Caldecott-winning author Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret), is another stunner told in pictures and words, leaving few heartstrings untugged in its centuries-spanning saga about love, loss, angels, madness, fire, shipwreck, family, storytelling, the AIDS epidemic, and a faithful dog. Gay and straight couples fall in love; some get married and/or raise children, and some are divorced. Learning and study are important to the story, which may inspire young readers to learn more about Shakespeare, Yeats, and Latin in particular. Some vividly drawn scenes of a shipwreck and burning buildings may be too scary for sensitive kids, while other readers may find some parents' abuse, neglect, and misunderstanding of their children upsetting.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In 1766, young Billy Marvel and his dog, Tar, are the sole survivors of a shipwreck that claimed the life of Billy's brother Marcus, among its many victims. Rescued by an English ship, Billy and Tar find a home at a London theater, launching a famous acting dynasty, THE MARVELS, whose tale unfolds in nearly 400 pages of Selznick's skilled, meticulous, poignant drawings, leaving the page-turning reader in shocked suspense. As the prose narrative begins, it's 1990 in London, where 13-year-old Joseph Jervis just ran away from boarding school and is working up the nerve to ring the doorbell of his uncle Albert, whom he's never met. He'll soon encounter the legacy of the Marvels and try to discover what it has to do with him and his family.
Is it any good?
Brian Selznick delivers another stunner in the intertwined sagas -- told mostly in pictures -- of a shipwrecked boy in 1766, the theatrical dynasty he founded, and a teen runaway in 1990. Keep the box of tissues handy, as there's plenty of loss and many heartstring-tugging moments along the way, as well as lots of love, humor, and miracles in the strangest of places.
It's a lush, complex tapestry of stories that rewards many visits. It also explores many deep subjects (death, loss, families, relationships, truth and fiction -- and which is which), as well as history that may be news to today's young readers, such as the AIDS epidemic. Gay and straight couples, and the joy and grief of their relationships, are essential to the story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories -- true, made-up, and something in between -- that bring people together and keep them connected. Do you have any family legends? Why do you think they survive from generation to generation in your family?
Do you like books that jump around in time? How does the art help tell the story? Have you read other Brian Selznick books? How is The Marvels different or similar?
Do you know about the AIDS epidemic of the '90s and the impact it had on people's lives? Do you know anyone who lived in those times and were affected? Are things better today?
- Author: Brian Selznick
- Illustrator: Brian Selznick
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Brothers and Sisters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: September 15, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 640
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.