The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, 525 pages
: a novel in words and pictures
4 Month Challenge: a book set in France; Caldecott Medal winner 2008
This was just a wonderful afternoon read, and the children are grabbing for it as well. The perfect blend of mysterious story, amazing pictures - I kept imagining that my fingers were going to be covered in pencil smudges. I've been reading raves about this book for a few years already. I confess, the cover made me think of a hot air balloon, and made me think it would be like the Wizard of Oz. I have no particular reason for thinking this, just poorly judging a book by its cover. I picked up a hardback version at the second hand bookstore without the cover leaf, so I was not biased by my cover concerns. The black cover actually fits the book better, with its dark mood.
Instead of Wizard of Oz, this is more reminiscent of The Hunchback of Notre Dame for feel, and sometimes I forgot that it was set in the 1930s. Hugo is living in the back alleys of the Paris train station, on his own like some waif from Les Miserables. He looks after the clocks after his uncle disappears. He has an automan his father left him that he is trying to fix. He meets up with a little girl, and her adopted family. The automan is the connecting idea and the mystery. The history of movies is also a part of the story, in a lovely tribute to the real filmmaker, Georges Melies.
The pictures were amazing and moved the story along in a way that the writing couldn't, but conversely, the pictures alone wouldn't have worked. Selznick has made a most memorable book for children and adults alike. Read it. I'd lend you mine, but the two oldest are fighting over who gets to read it first.