Excitement was running high. All day long, children had been asking, ‘When are we skyping?’, ‘Is it time yet?’…
On Monday, we had received proof copies of Brian Selznick’s new book, ‘The Marvels’ to start reading as we were going to interview him on Friday. The children were delighted and fascinated by the beautiful drawings that open the book. Taking our time, we discussed each picture, looking at details, making predictions and admiring the skill of their creator, before turning to the next.
Beginning in 1766, a series of illustrations tells the story of Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and how he became an actor. The story is picked up in prose in 1990, following Joseph who has run away from school to his uncle’s house in London. Seemingly unconnected, the two stories come together as the reader, and Joseph, piece together many mysteries.
The children had worked together and had generated lots of questions for Brian. They then had to discuss these and whittle them down to their final choices as we would only have about 30 minutes. Questions selected, we settled in front of the screen.
Brian was at Dennis Sever’s House (https://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk ) in London which was part of the inspiration for The Marvels. Brian’s enthusiasm for, and fascination with, this house shone through as he told the children about its role in inspiring the idea for the story. Although now a museum, the house is kept as if a family still live there, lit by candles and furnished from the period. When one of the children asked whether he used any elements of people he knew in his characters, Brian introduced us to David Milne, the curator of the museum, and explained how he had inspired the character of Joseph, the boy in the written section of the story. The scene from the story where Joseph walks down a derelict London street, peers through the window of a large house and feels as if he has fallen back in time, is based on David’s experience.
The children were amazed to hear that it takes Brian about three years to write a book and then another year to publish it! They asked how he feels knowing that his books have been published all over the world. Not surprisingly, Brian told us how good it feels and how thrilling it is to think that his books have been to places that he has never been!
When asked what had inspired the name of The Marvels, Brian talked about his interest in the theatre and told us about a show he had seen in New York which starred an actress called Elizabeth Marvell- so the book is named after her. Lots of the characters’ names come from Shakespeare’s plays.
The children asked many more questions and Brian kindly answered them all. His enthusiasm for Dennis Sever’s house and his lovely manner with the children made the session memorable and inspiring.
We would like to thank him so much for taking time out of his busy schedule to skype with us!