Brian Selznick feels that his illustrations are more authentic when he immerses himself in his subject matter. For the picture book Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, Selznick spent six months in Washington, DC conducting research at libraries and museums. For his Caldecott-Honor-winning illustrations in The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, he traveled to London to sketch, photograph, and climb inside the famous dinosaur replicas. For his best-selling 533-page illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick watched old French films, interviewed experts, and traveled to Paris three times. That book won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for its groundbreaking "cinematic" illustrations.
You can watch the interview below, view the interview transcript, read a short biography on Brian Selznick, or see a selected list of his children's books. Listen to this interview on Apple Podcasts.
From the time Brian Selznick was a young boy, it was clear that he had a gift for drawing. On his kindergarten report card, Brian's teacher noted that he was a good artist. At school Brian's classmates liked to gather around to see what he was sketching. During his childhood in New Jersey, Brian's parents encouraged him to take art classes. At the end of high school, Brian decided to attend art school instead of a traditional liberal arts college. Brian's father, an accountant, worried that his son wouldn't be able to make a living as an artist.
After high school, Brian Selznick attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). While at RISD, Selznick wanted to design sets for theatre productions. Yet after graduating, he realized that he actually wanted to become a children's book illustrator. To learn about children's literature, Selznick took a job at Eeyore's Books for Children, a popular bookstore in Manhattan. For three years he read books, sold books, and worked on his own. Selznick's first book, The Houdini Box, was published in 1991 while he was still working at the bookstore.
Soon Brian Selznick earned a reputation as a talented up-and-coming illustrator. He earned awards for illustrating books written by authors such as Pam Muñoz Ryan, Andrew Clements, and Barbara Kerley. In 2002 Selznick's illustrations for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins earned him a Caldecott Honor. In 2007 Selznick branched out into new territory when he published the first novel-length book that he both wrote and illustrated. This breakthrough masterpiece, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, immediately jumped to the top of The New York Times Best Sellers List, and in 2008 it won the most prestigious American award for an illustrator — the Caldecott Medal.
Brian Selznick currently divides his time between Brooklyn, New York and San Diego, California.