11 December 2009
Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznik
Published: 2007 Pages: 526
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Hugo Cabret, apprentice clockmaker, sometimes thief, machinist, and wannabe magician, has an obsession. An automata, found broken in a museum attic, may hold the answers to his universe, but first Hugo has to fix it. His obsession leads him to Georges Melies, the magician of early film.
I have never experienced a book like this before. It is not an illustrated book: the images do not accompany the story; they help tell the story. It is not a graphic novel: the text and images are separated from each other. What it actually is, I do not know, but I would like to see more of it in children's literature.
The images are a mix of pencil drawings of the story's characters and events and screenshots from Melies' films. The artwork is intricate even as it is simple, and I was continually impressed by the detail offered. The choice of what to visually represent was both appropriate and unique.
Being a film instructor, I loved the inclusion of Melies, and the mention of other early film bigwigs such as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Jean Renoir. This book could be a wonderful jumping off point for kids to explore the world of film outside of contemporary blockbusters. It could spark or renew in them the connection between the big screen and the world of dreams. I'm even considering adding this book to my film course.
I read the book in a little over two hours one evening, and I very much enjoyed the experience. It was unique, entertaining, and informative. Overall, I think the combination of images and text makes this a wonderful book for a young reader - or an imaginative older one.
Memorable Scene: One series of images represents the drawings of Melies that Hugo and Isabelle find locked away. Light-exploding heads, fantastical beasts, mermaids, men popping out of ringed planets, knights riding fish, butterfly women, and flames grace the pages in a beautiful menagerie of dream scenes.
Memorable Quote: If you've ever wondered where your dreams come from when you go to sleep at night, just look around. This is where they are made. ~said to a young boy in a film studio
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Question: What do you think of books told partially or primarily in pictures? Do you have any recommendations for other books like this?