Friday, April 4, 2008

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Do you enjoy graphic novels? What about silent movies? Stories of mystery and suspense? Do you like looking at beautifully done line drawings and charcoal sketches? Are you intrigued by gears and inventions? How about emotionally touching accounts of orphans?

Brian Selznick has amazingly captured all of this and more in his 533 page book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

In this novel, Selznick creates an action packed account that revolves around two Parisian orphans living in the 1930s, who who end up thrown together to solve a mystery. Unfortunately for them, they both are prone to secrecy and have developed some other bad habits. These things combine to throw continual roadblocks in their path.

Also included within this edge-of-your-seat storyline are the historical figure, Georges Melies, a pioneer French of cinema, and references to many well known silent movies.

In The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick successfully combines many unique format devices. Although the 535 pages give the impression of a lengthy tome, much of the story line is told through drawings. And many of the pages of drawings are done in such a way as to imitate the progressive frames of a silent movie. Interspersed with these pages are a few pages of prose, sometimes entire pages, sometimes just a paragraph or two.

In all, the plot keeps the reader turning the pages. The artwork and stylistic elements are very appealing. There is just the right amount of emotion and moral dilemma to connect a reader with the characters. And best of all, the book leaves a reader wanting to learn something more. My 13 year old immediately asked to do a few library searches on Melies, silent movies and other historical facets Selznick included in his story.

I would guess that this book would appeal to a wide variety of ages. A middle school child would likely breeze through it independently. Younger independent readers would also have no problems with it. It would also work well as a read aloud if one or two listeners snuggle up next to the reader and look along at the same time. But if you have a larger number of listeners, as we do in our family, this would not be a good read aloud choice since the illustrations are integral to the story line.

Out of five stars this one gets a full five.

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