“It's always very important to me to do as much research as possible. And a lot of that research does generally involve going to the place where the story has happened.” ~ Brian Selznick.
As a child or as an adult, Brian Selznick is everyone’s dream of a good friend. In his youth, he lived out some of his fantasies on the fortressed “ Island of GI Joe ” that he built in the thicket behind his house. Young Brian also erected a house for trolls, and perhaps his first experience with the challenge of mixing exactly the right color came when he shaped a prosthetic clay arm for a troll doll that had fallen into the jaws of the family dog.
He loved movies such as Star Wars, old films including The Wizard of Oz, 1950s science fiction flicks, and monster movies, particularly The Phantom of the Opera, and the 1933 version of King Kong, which was produced by his grandfather’s first cousin, David O. Selznick. Childhood experiments with theatrical makeup helped to inspire one of his future books, The Boy of a Thousand Faces (2000).
While Selznick’s parents encouraged him in his artistic endeavors, the schools of his hometown of East Brunswick, New Jersey, offered a good art program, supplemented with additional art lessons outside the school setting.
His achievements landed the artist at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). To his delight, the proximity of Brown University enabled Selznick to study set design at Brown and illustration next door at RISD. While in school, he resisted the suggestions of many who thought he should write and illustrate children’s books. However, after completing undergraduate study and taking time to travel and explore, he knew that he wanted to create children’s books. He took a direct route to learn about the children’s literature by working at a Manhattan children’s bookstore, Eeyore's Books for Children, where his contacts included book editors, picture book artists, authors, and a knowledgeable staff. Selznick wrote and illustrated his first book, The Houdini Box (1991), while he worked at the store. After that, he enjoyed successful collaborations with authors such as Pam Conrad, Andrew Clements, and Pamela Munoz Ryan. He received a 2002 Caldecott Honor for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, written by Barbara Kerley. He won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for his innovative, cinematic The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Today, Selznick still constructs the worlds of his imagination, filling his studio with sculptures, hand-crafted puppets, and dioramas. As much fun as it is to be around someone with Selznick’s talents and energy, his friends would probably say that his generosity, passion, and warmth are his most endearing traits. Dividing his time between New York and San Diego, Selznick travels as often as his book research requires.