Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Hardcover, 525 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Scholastic
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With 284 pictures between the book's 533 pages, the book depends equally on its pictures as it does on the actual words. Selznick himself has described the book as "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things." The Caldecott Medal is for picture books, in 2008 this was first novel to receive.

The primary inspiration is the true story of turn-of-the-century French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata. Selznick decided to add automata to the storyline after reading Edison's Eve by Gaby Wood, which tells the story of Edison's attempt to create a talking wind-up doll.

Méliès actually had a set of automata, which were either sold or lost. At the end of his life Méliès was broke, even as his films were screening widely in the United States. He did work in a toy booth in a Paris railway station, hence the setting. Selznick drew Méliès's real door in the book.

Wow this book was just neat. I have never read a book quite like this before and I really enjoyed it. This is a middle grade book and I finished it in only one day. The illustrations are fantastic. The detail in the close ups and even in some of the larger pictures was phenomenal. When you get to a section with multiple pictures in a row it is like you are watching a movie. The sequence of pictures at the very beginning does a fantastic job doing that.

The book is set in 1930s Paris and our main character is Hugo, an orphan who lives in his Uncles apartment in the train station. He runs around every morning and evening, setting the clocks just like his father taught him. Soon into the story his uncle goes missing and Hugo is forced to survive on his own but stealing food when he can. I found it hard to warm up to any of the main characters right off the bat. Hugo was very guarded and secretive. The Shop keeper Papa Georges was sort of mean, and the young girl Isabelle was sort of a bitch. However by the end of the book I really like all of them quite a lot.

Hugo’s story starts out talking about how he has been stealing gears and small toys so that he can finish the automaton that his father was working on when he was alive. He thinks that his father has left him a message that will come from whatever the automaton can write. It is a wonderful piece of equipment that has kept Hugo intrigued from the moment his father found it in the museum’s attic.

Not only does this book have an interesting story and tons of fantastic pictures but it also has a little bit of a history lesson to it. There is a ton of talk about movies when they first came out. Many of the pictures were film stills from the actual movies. This was so neat to see and it was a nice contrast to the drawings by the author. There was also talk of magicians and how automatons came to be. So I actually learned some things from this book.

Do I Recommend this Book?

Absolutely, this book should be read by anyone, young or old. I think a middle grade child would absolutely love it through perhaps someone that is not that into reading would enjoy all the pictures throughout.

My Rating:

1 comment:

  1. Sounds very intriguing with the combination of pictures and storytelling, I might just get it for the niece and then steal from her!


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