Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Brian Selznick's early works

Boy of a Thousand Faces
By Brian Selznick
Published 2000 by HarperCollins Children's Books

The Houdini Box
By Brian Selznick
Published 2001 by Aladdin

I fell in love with Selznick's Caldecott-winning work, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I had no idea that he had published anything else. I knew he had done illustrations for other authors but thought that was his first solo work. Turns out I was wrong. Recently, I picked up two of his earlier titles and read them. They are both short - about the length of a typical picture book - and both hint at Selznick's genius. He seamlessly blends his narration with his illustrations to tell a complete story.  Both of these stories appealed especially to me because they are about subjects I really like. Boy of a Thousand Faces tells the story of a young boy who loves horror movies. He likes to create his own faces, like the host of a horror show whom he idolizes. The story unfolds over Halloween and it's a very sweet story. The illustrations are great, perfectly evoking the golden age of horror films. The Houdini Box tells of a young boy who wants to be a famous escape artist like Houdini but can't quite get it right. One day, he meets Houdini himself, who gives him a locked box by way of explaining his tricks. This is another sweet story about a young boy and the power of imagination and belief. I think Houdini is a fascinating subject for kids. Selznick's early works show his ability to balance the written and illustrated. I really enjoyed both of these short titles and recommend them for all.

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