Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Several months ago while visiting the library, I was intrigued by a very large book on display in the juvenile section. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick boasted a whopping 534 pages but when I opened the covers of the book, the contents were a delightful surprise. The book's dust jacket provides the following note, "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....a cinematic tour de force."

The story is set in 1931 Paris and highlights the life of a boy named Hugo Cabret. The opening pages of the book begin like an old time movie: black and white sketches framed in black. The first 45 pages of the story are actually marvelously detailed pictures leading you along the path the boy takes within a busy train station. Like a camera zooming in for a close-up, characters are brought to life before the reader's eye.

When Hugo's father died, he went to live with his uncle at the train station. His uncle was in charge of keeping all the station clocks running and Hugo was taught to do the job as well. When the uncle disappears, Hugo keeps the clocks running on his own and his fight for survival lead to more than a few narrow escapes with the law. Hugo's spare time is consumed with working on a project his father had told him about. The mystery of that project touches the lives of another orphan, her guardian and a film student friend.

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is the way the author weaves in historical information about the early days of film-making and one of the industry's pioneers. Readers accompany Hugo as he journeys through despair, fear, and discovery. I read the book first and it wasn't long before my middle schoolers picked it up to read as well. I recently read it out loud to my 6 year old son and he was equally captivated by the drawings and story. This is definitely a book to be enjoyed with someone else.

For anyone who loves mystery, adventure and the search for "buried treasures", this book will not disappoint. This really is a book like no other and I highly recommend it for your 2010 reading list!

Happy New Year,

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