It seemed like in the month of December you couldn’t turn on a TV without seeing a commercial for Scorsese’s Hugo – this may have something to do with my obvious addiction to the tube or that I watch a lot of TV geared towards children and/or mothers 😉 Whatever the deal is, my interest was peaked and I thought I would give the book version a try. I am definitely one of those people that given the choice will always opt to read the book first and then see the movie because let’s face it, the book is almost always better! (If you can name a movie that is better than the book I’d love to see it in the comments…)
Hugo Cabret is a young orphan who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. Set in the 1930s, Hugo goes about his day winding the clocks in the station while surreptitiously stealing mechanical parts (and occassionally a bit of food). He is stealing parts to fix a strange automaton that his father was working on and that he believes will convey a message to him from his dead father. One day he gets caught stealing a mechanical toy by the shop owner and this begins a series of events and coincidences that connect him in profound ways to the mysterious shop owner and his ward, a young girl.
This book was really charming and wonderful in a lot of ways. The subtitle of the book is “a novel in words and pictures.” and this is meant very literally. All of the illustrations are these really beautiful pencil drawings and instead of just showing what the text indicates, it actually is in place of the words. He also uses stills from French movies that figures into the book very prominently. The book even opens and closes with illustrations as if it were a movie. The mystery of the automaton and how it was connected to the shop owner is interesting. I felt in some places however that Selznick was concentrating more on the history of cinema and other facts rather than the mystery itself. All in all, it was enjoyable and I would recommend it to both parents and children. The book is meant for Gr. 3-9 and I think that is appropriate. I give it six shoes – cute shoes but not much else.
Three Appeals : Amazing drawings, historical setting and circumstances, interesting mystery
Red Flags : None – this is a kid’s book.
Awards : Won the Caldecott Medal… be impressed 🙂
If you like the The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, then try :
1) The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom. Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family — if she can find it. And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker’s apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers’ guild — if only he can create a working head.
Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.
2) Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigatorby Jennifer Allison
Ever since her father died, quirky Gilda Joyce has been working hard to sharpen her psychic skills. She’s determined to communicate with spirits from the Other Side and become a crack investigator of spooky, twisted mysteries. After wrangling an invitation to visit relatives in San Francisco, Gilda discovers that her dreary, tight-lipped uncle and his strange, delicate daughter need her help to uncover the terrible family secret that has a tortured ghost stalking their home.
3) Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
When a book of unexplainable occurances brings Petra Andalee & Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, & an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal. As Petra & Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled? (And yes I sort of like this one because one of the protagonists is named Petra….)
All descriptions taken from Fantastic Fiction.
So take a break from the depravity of adult literature and check out The Invention of Hugo Cabret. How did YOU like it?