Brian Selznick’s ‘Marvels’ Gives Young Readers Opportunity to See, Feel Physical Beauty

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Students of the Chautauqua School of Art can tell a story with their craft. Every painting, sculpture or print can be a narrative, just like in Brian Selznick’s The Marvels.

The Marvels is the CLSC Young Readers selection for Week Six, and at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday in today the Arts Quad, the young readers will get an inside look at the studios that house narrative artists and learn what goes into artfully telling a story. A story can be more than just text, like The Marvels, which uses the first half of its pages to tell a history in pictures.

Like the inscription on the cover of the book says, “You either see it or you don’t.”

Education assistant Karen Schiavone said The Marvels is an important read because of its message that before you assume, you have to look beneath the surface, and dig deeper.

“I think readers have a natural tendency to predict endings before they know what they’re going to be,” Schiavone said. “With this book, there were a couple twists that caught me off guard, and made me have to take a step back.”

Going from sketched illustrations to text, two separate stories are told in about 400 pages. The illustrations tell the story of a shipwrecked boy in 1766 who finds work at a London theatre. The second half jumps to 1990 when another boy investigates the history of family’s house and his own family.

“In the end, once you figure out what’s going on, all the pieces come together,” Schiavone said. “You see the big picture, and that’s when it really hits you.”

The physical design of the book, Schiavone said, is just as significant as the story. Its pages are gilded gold, and the hard cover features designs that reflect the images printed inside.

“It’s just a beautiful book in so many ways,” Schiavone said. “It’s one that you absolutely want to have on a bookshelf. The whole first half of the book, told in illustrations is beautiful, and the narrative in the last couple hundred pages gets you, emotionally.”

Schiavone said in today’s world of e-books and e-readers, experiencing a physical book, especially one so artfully printed, is an important experience.

“It’s an important experience for anyone, everywhere,” she said. “If I buy a book, I want to have it in my hands. I think you feel more part of the book when you can hold it in your hands. For me, it makes me feel more immersed in the story.”

Andrew Manzella

The author Andrew Manzella

Andrew Manzella is a reporter and feature writer from western New York. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in journalism from SUNY Buffalo State.