Brian Selznick

Award-Winning Author and Illustrator

A Brief Sketch of His Life

"The Kid Who Could Draw"
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, Brian Selznick was known as "the kid who could draw." He contributed to the arts journal, created a brontosaurus mural for his elementary school, drew for his high school year book, and painted images on the football players' helmets. He fostered his talents by being involved in his art classes in school and also began receiving instruction outside of school from fifth grade through high school. He spent time in an undeveloped area in his neighborhood, that he called "GI Joe Island," drawing and constructing miniature sets and forts.
Pursuing His Passion
He knew he had artistic talent, but he was not sure how he would use it. His father, an accountant, was worried that Brian would not be able to make money as an artist; but he also encouraged him and Brian's siblings to pursue their passions. Therefore, at the end of high school, Selznick prepared to pursue a major in Illustration and was accepted at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). However, at the time he absolutely did not want to be an illustrator of children's books. He took classes in conceptual drawing, painting, and figure drawing. Meanwhile, he also dabbled in theater at Brown University. After a friend suggested that he combine his talent for visual arts with his appreciation for the theater, he thought he would continue his graduate studies in set design. However, he was not accepted into his program of choice and took some time to travel. As he traveled from city to city, he drew and wrote; and he reexamined his talents. He realized that he loved drawing, writing, and children and that he did, indeed, want to be a children's illustrator. But, he did not have any formal knowledge or training in children's literature.
Learning about Children's Materials and Becoming an Author
He moved to New York and got a job at Eeyore's Books for Children, a well-known former bookstore in Manhattan, where he learned everything he came to know and understand about the power of children's literature. His manager would send him home with bags of books, providing him with the knowledge he needed to make recommendations to customers and also to become a successful author and illustrator himself. In fact, while he was working at the bookstore, he rewrote one of his old college assignments, which eventually became his first book The Houdini Box.
Authenticity and Perseverance
Now as a Caldecott Honor winning illustrator and New York Times bestselling author, Selznick attributes his success to authenticity and perseverance. He researches topics for his books extensively - interviewing, visiting, interacting with, and experiencing the subject matter firsthand. He says that taking into consideration not just how something looks and feels physically but also emotionally makes him feel more authentic while completing his works. When he needs to spark his imagination, he visits art and science museums, goes to the movies, reads books and observes life around him. And when he feels doubt or like his creativity is blocked, he keeps drawing. He advises that students who love drawing should do the same, especially if they want to pursue a career as an artist. "I think the most important thing you can do is keep drawing no matter what. And not to be afraid whatever interests you. If there is something that you want to draw, to make, then I think you should pursue it and not let anyone tell you that you can't do it," he said.

Cameras, Monsters, and Art, Oh My!

The theater, cinema, drawing, dinosaurs, and monsters are central parts of Selznick's life. In fact, it runs in the family! His grandfather's first cousin, David O. Selznick, was the producer of the original King Kong film. These themes and interests are seen throughout the many works that he has illustrated and written.

A Few of His Major Works

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Written and Illustrated by Brian Selznick
  • 2008 Caldecott Medal
  • National Book Award Finalist
  • A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007
  • 2007 Quill Award Winner
  • 2007 Borders Original Voices Finalist
  • 2007 #1 Best Book for Kids from Barnes and Noble
  • Parenting Magazine "Mom–Tested Book of the Year"
  • Best Book of 2007