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American Road by Pete Davies
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow Part Three by Gene Luen Yang
Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer
Dead Air by Michelle Schusterman
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang
Doctor Who: The Nameless City by Michael Scott
Everything's Amazing [sort of] by Liz Pichon
Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison
Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America with My Fork by Simon Majumdar
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
The Locksmith issue 2 by Terrance Grace
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
The Mystery of the Scarlet Rose by Irene Adler
The Numberlys by William Joyce
PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
Reading Up a Storm by Eva Gates
Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop
Romance of the Road by Ronald Primeau
Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 2: Feasts of Fury by Eric Colossal
The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Thai Die by Monica Ferris
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey

Miscellaneous
How I spend my time
I don't only post reviews
On leveled reading — or leveled reading didn't make me a life long reader
On reading ebooks and digital fatigue
Twenty-nine years of being a reader
What are my thoughts on audiobooks?

Previous month

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



The Marvels: 06/22/16

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels by Brian Selznick is the latest hybrid of wordless picture book and traditional novel. This time it follows young Joseph who in 1990 runs away from his boarding school to live with an uncle he's never met. While there, he uncovers the story of Billy Marvel, a boy he believes washed overboard from a ship only to be rescued and later starts a family of thespians.

As with The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstuck this is a huge book. Inside though, there's about four hundred pages of illustrations with no explanation, followed by a very short and slow to get started story, followed by another chunk of illustrations. The illustrations and text seem to be getting less and less integrated with each new volume and the over all contrapuntal narrative is suffering for this.

Eight years ago when Hugo was released, Selznick's dark sketches mimicking the old silent films of the frères Lumiere and, of course, Georges Méliès, were revolutionary. They were also the perfect way of telling a big piece of Hugo Cabret's story.

Wonderstruck also benefits from the Selznick's illustrations as they again stand in for silence, this time the silence of the world as perceived by the deaf characters.

The Marvels doesn't have as obvious a metaphor to require this hybridization of full page illustrations with text. Only until near the end of Joseph's story (the text part) is the point of the Marvels story revealed. This time, the illustrations are fictional. They are stand-ins for a series of drawings Uncle Albert has done, casting his lover in a heroic role.

As I've mentioned before, I generally dislike inclusions of work done by the fictional characters because whether they are done as illustrations, text, poetry, or something else, they very rarely are done in a style that matches the voice of that character. Basically they fail to be distinct from the author's narrator voice.

So it's just an amazing coincidence (cough cough) that Albert draws exactly like Brian Selznick even though his inspiration is a deeply personal one.

I'm also disappointed that there seems to be no growth in Selznick's art. He settled upon something that works in Hugo, adapted it slightly for Wonderstruck and did nothing further when creating the artwork for The Marvels. What was once revolutionary is now, stale. What should be fantastical depictions of Billy Marvel's misadventures at sea and his rise to fame back in London and his lasting legacy should be vibrant. These pictures should jump off the page.

But they don't. They are tied down to their pages by heavy cross hatching and dark gray borders. The strokes are all uniform. The lighting is all uniform. There is no drama and no fire (even when fire is portrayed).

Two stars

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