When we look at an object through a kaleidoscope, it is fractured and scattered around our field of vision, almost unrecognizable, yet glittering and beautiful. Afterward, when we see the whole object, it is a revelation.
What if we did the same thing with a story?
In a series of tales told out of time, Selznick gives readers a kaleidoscopic view of the first-person narrator’s relationship with James. Some are fairy tales, while others are stories of an ordinary boy’s life. And who is James? He could be a friend, or perhaps an imaginary friend. At other times, he seems to be the ghost of a departed friend or the King of the Moon. James and the main character sail a ship to the moon, explore a dark cave, break into an ancient castle, and live in a house in Kensington.
Each story begins with a two-page spread of a view through a kaleidoscope, followed by a one-page sketch of the normal appearance of the object. On a webinar about the book, Selznick discussed the depression he experienced in his isolation during the pandemic, and how he decided to experiment with a kaleidoscope he found. Each of Selznick’s books, beginning with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, has showcased his artistic talent in a different way, but I would say that this volume takes his storytelling to new heights. The prose is scintillating, and the dreamlike stories hint at deep mysteries bound by ties of a love stronger than death.
Not the usual fare for middle grades, but a jewel that will especially enjoyed by children who love fantastical fairy tales.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.