Friday, 13 January 2012
Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: March 1st, 2007
Genre: Junior Fiction, Historical Fiction
For the past three months, Hugo Cabret has been living alone in the clock keeper’s apartment in Gare Montparnasse station in Paris. It was Hugo’s uncle’s job to look after the station’s clocks, but for months he has been missing and the responsibility falls to Hugo. While spending his days caring for the station’s many clocks, Hugo also has a secret that might hold a message from his dead father. When Hugo meets Isabelle, whose godfather owns a toy stall in the station, they find themselves entangled in a mystery. When Hugo discovers a way to find the message he thinks his father left him, his life will change forever.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret has been out for four years, but has recently peaked in popularity due to the recent movie adaptation. Before you even pick up this book you should know that the majority of it is made of illustrations. Unlike other books I’ve read, the illustrations are essential to this book. In some ways, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is like a graphic novel, since the pictures tell part of the story. At times there are breaks in text, which are followed by pages of photos that show an action. Sometimes descriptions of characters, places or objects are replaced with illustrations. In a lot of reviews I’ve seen people complain about half of the bulk of the book being made of drawings. While I loved this book, I would only recommend it to people who are open to reading a book with so little text. That being said, the illustrations are beautifully done and I enjoyed the book’s unique format. You might assume that since illustrations played such a key role in the story telling that the writing would be lacking. I was surprised by how great the writing is, since I assumed that Selznick was originally an illustrator. I felt that his writing left me with a sense of wonder, akin to what Isabelle and Hugo often felt. The story itself is amazing. Occurring in 1931, the majority of the book takes place in a bustling Parisian train station. I loved the role that films had in this book, which is essentially about the life of Georges Méliès. While the book has a great number of illustrations by Brian Selznick, it also includes some photographs of films, which added a lot to the book overall. Sometimes in books the author will reference films that he made up, but I love it when references are made to real films. While Hugo Cabret is more aptly described as historical fiction, the way the story was told made it feel like fantasy. I think one of the special things about this book is how it focuses on the type of magic that can be found anywhere. I’m worried that some kids passed this book up just because of its volume, where as in reality it is a very quick read. The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a captivating and unique book that takes you on an adventure you won’t soon forget.
“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and types of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason, too.”