Monday, January 27, 2014

A Review of 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' by Brian Selznick

"Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity.  But when his world suddenly interlocks-- like the gears of the clocks he keeps-- with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the train station, Hugo's undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy.  A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

With 284 pages of original drawings, and combining elements of picture book, graphic novel, and film, Brian Selznick breaks open the novel form to create an entirely new reading experience.  Here is a stunning, cinematic tour de force from a boldly innovative storyteller, artist, and bookmaker."

I've been eyeing this book for quite some time, but the size sort of intimidated me for a while.  Since I'm currently a full-time student, I kept thinking, "When am I ever going to get the time to read this whole thing?"  Fear not, the size of this book is incredibly deceiving.  I sat down and read this book in about three hours-- all 530ish pages of it.

Hugo Cabret is not what I thought it was going to be.  About half of this book is made up of illustrations.  Not only are they absolutely beautiful, but they function differently than the illustrations in your average graphic novel.  Whereas graphic novels like V For Vendetta and Watchmen work hand-in-hand supporting each other to tell the story through the dialogue and limited narration, the illustrations in this book put the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" into action literally, moving the story forward without saying anything.  In between pictures, the book reads like the average novel with paragraphs complete with dialogue, narration, and filler phrases such as "...said Isabelle."  On top of that, the whole experience is like a silent film.  You have pictures but then the "film" cuts to frames with words of dialogue and description.  To top it off, the edges of all the pages are black and the end of the book ends with a fade-out.  This is so cool and completely different to me!  I prefer this experience to my other graphic novel experiences (so far).

I love the setting: Paris in the 1930s.  The pictures make me nostalgic for the city.  I kept thinking, did I enter Paris through Hugo's train station?  Did I pass through that Metro station?  If you've traveled to Paris, you'll want to go back, and if you haven't been there, you'll definitely want to go there by the end of this book, story aside.

I was also surprised that this is historical fiction.  Georges in this book was a real filmmaker, even if Hugo wasn't a real character.  He created automatons and one of them was found in the attic of a museum, damaged by a fire that had occurred.  I didn't see that one coming, that's for sure.

My understanding is that this is another book for younger readers-- I originally found a copy in the fifth grade classroom I volunteer in, so that's what makes me think this.  One more book for younger readers under my belt!  But this is also a book that older audiences will also enjoy.  I certainly enjoyed it.

I give The Invention of Hugo Cabret:
Thanks for Reading!


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