Sunday, June 12, 2011
Selznick, Brian: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
533 pages, Scholastic Inc.
Orphan Hugo Cabret lives in a wall. His secret home is etched out in the crevices of a busy Paris train station. Part-time clock keeper, part-time thief, he leads a life of quiet routine until he gets involved with an eccentric, bookish young girl and an angry old man who runs a toy booth in the station. The Invention of Hugo Cabret unfolds its cryptic, magical story in a format that blends elements of picture book, novel, graphic novel, and film. Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick has fashioned an intricate puzzle story that binds the reader like a mesmerist's spell.
This book is like watching a black and white movie - the really old ones, like Harold Lloyd or Charlie Chaplin, with the beautiful scenery and the characters that are as real and heart-rending as they are comical.
Hugo Cabret, the boy, the thief, the inventor trying to carry on the legacy of his dead father and solve the mystery of the automaton that they discovered. Paris, the city, the people, the crowded stations. The girl and the old man, the stand of toys - all gloriously rendered in silent black and white sketches that tell the story as clearly as the pages of text.
It's historical fiction and art and an adventure all in one. And believe me, that's not something I get to say about children's literature, especially in the increasing waves of vulgarity and cliches and decreasing quality.
And let's tally up the rating points!
1 - Endearing main character. He may be a thief, but he is still a child.
1 - Colorful supporting cast: the film student with the eyepatch, the young bookworm who knows how to pick locks and guard secrets, the old man who knows more than how to sell toys.
1 - A surprising twist in plot and a satisfying resolution.
1 - Amazing details in both text and pictures.
This is definitely a must read for both YA and middle-grade readers. Adults who are young at heart will enjoy as well.