The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick
My Thoughts: I have been sitting on this for a long time. I have no idea how to convey my thoughts about a book that is as beautiful and as grand as this one. And that does not even include the story, which is fantastic. I'll just have to do my best, and I'll start at the beginning...Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, twelve-year-old 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 with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small 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 all come together...in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. -(summary from book's website)
I went to my library (Y'all, libraries rock. Visit them, and let's keep them open, okay?) and as per my routine, visited the Childrens Library. Immediately my awesome librarian came to me with a book. She had gotten it back when someone returned it and thought of me. That rocked my world. When my librarians think of me when they are ordering or holding a book, I read it. They know me. (I am so lucky to have the most ROCK STAR librarians here in my area.) Anyway, she handed me The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and told me it was incredible and I would love it. I immediately thanked her and put it in my already heavy library bag.
The first thing I noticed about the book was how heavy it was. The thing weighed a ton. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why. It is 533 pages. That's why. The amazing thing, though, is that almost 300 of those pages are illustrations. Not just any illustrations, y'all. I mean some of the coolest illustrations ever. Before I walked away from the checkout desk, I was in love with the book just from glancing through the inside of it. Mr. Selznick had me at the pictures.
I wish I could describe the story to you a little bit, but it is really complex and I do not think I could do it adequately without messing it up. So I will just say that the story is quite good. Hugo is a very interesting kid. He is a very strong child, and very independent. He lives alone and does very well at it despite his young age. He is resourceful and a good manager of the few things he does have. He is still, however, a child and I love the way Mr. Selznick combined the innocence and desires of childhood with the way Hugo carried himself when he was acting as an adult.
The rest of the characters are as wonderful as Hugo. They all have things about them that they are hiding and it gives their characterization a depth that blends together to make the story wonderful for those of us 'older' children reading the book. It is not a separate story for us older folks, but there is an appreciation there that we can have as we understand the things that these characters are going through just a little differently and more thoroughly than a child would.
But back to the book...the story is told with a mixture of pictures and words. There may be page after page of illustration between pages of writing, but each is equally important. And each illustration was well-thought and has a place in the 500+ pages of the book. Mr. Selznick illustrated this book himself and his talent is ridiculously amazing. He actually used his drawings like a camera and you get the effects of lighting and zooming in and out. It's crazy-good. And the cover...just, wow. For somebody who is attracted to pretty covers, I'm sold on this one. The front cover is nice, but the back cover and the spine (yep, I said spine) artwork are amazing.
I guess I basically just do not have enough great things to say about this book. I owe my librarian a big one for walking this book over to me. She knows me well, because this recommendation was spot-on exactly what I love about literature for children. It is imaginative and fun with things to be learned on the inside. There are great illustrations to keep the younger readers enchanted with the story...
...and these same illustrations have kept adult readers enchanted as well. Brian Selznick received the 2008 Caldecott Medal for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This award is given for excellence in illustration. This marks the first time a novel has received this award.
Oh my gracious, I would recommend The Invention of Hugo Cabret to anybody who is willing to read childrens books. I can't stop gushing about those pictures. Do me a favor...if you have not read the book yet (of if you just want to), check out this slideshow of the opening sequence of illustrations from the book's website. It's wonderful...