Monday, April 23, 2012

MG Book Review - The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Part of me didn't want to even write this review. Not because I didn't want to share how good it was, but because it has been given so many great reviews. What could I say that hasn't already been said? In the end, I decided to just go ahead and share what I loved about this book. So here goes.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

Synopsis : A young boy lives in a train station in Paris where he meets all cast of characters and finds himself at the center of an amazing mystery. The book also gives a brief look into the beginning of cinematography.

How's that for a non-spoiler synopsis?

My review:

I received this book in late December, and it has been sitting on my to-read shelf since then. Everyday I would look over and see Hugo staring out at me. Literally, since the spine is half of Hugo's face. I wanted to read it desperately, but the sheer size of it intimidated me. It looks like a big clunker of a book. For some reason lately, I just wasn't ready for a big clunker of a book. Finally, I pulled it off the shelf at lunch one day and opened it up. I was pleasantly surprised to find that half of the book is made of amazing illustrations and stills from some of the earliest movies. This made the book go by much faster than I expected.

We meet the main character Hugo Cabret. He is the timekeeper at a Paris train station. He has a secret though. In his apartment, he has an automaton (see the illustration below to see what that is). His goal is to figure out how to make it work again, using parts he has squirreled away while fixing clocks. One day he is caught by the toymaker stealing a toy mechanical mouse. He is forced by the toymaker to work for him to make up for stealing. One day, the toymaker notices Hugo's notebook, which contains the images that Hugo and his father drew of the automaton. The toymaker freaks out and takes the notebook, mumbling all the while about "ghosts" and being "haunted".

The book is contains some of the history of early film-making. This was probably my favorite part. You learned a little bit about the first movie. Apparently it was just the image of a train coming out of the tunnel. But when viewers saw it for the first time, they fainted or ran screaming, fully thinking that the train was going to come out of the picture at them. It is amazing to think how far movies have come since then. It was really only a bit over 100 years ago that all this happened. There's a lot about Georges Méliès who really was one of the first film-makers. He is responsible for the famous image of the rocket flying into the moon. That image has always given me the creeps. 

What I loved about the illustrations in the book is that they weren't just illustrations. They didn't just show what was already written. Sometimes they showed the action that was occurring and continued the plot. I thought that was pretty interesting. It was almost a graphic novel, almost a picture book but with much more plot than both. It was an interesting new take on a children's book.

The automaton is in the bottom left.

The book has everything that a middle grader would want in a book. There's adventure, a mystery, a relate-able main character. The illustrations are a great addition to the book, as are the film stills. If your middle grader is a quick reader, they'll probably knock this one out in a day, maybe even faster. I definitely recommend this one. I was planning on giving it away, but instead I've decided to keep it for the bambino's ever-growing bookshelf. That's how much I loved it!

Favorite Quote: “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" 

Disclosure: I received this book as a giveaway prize from Natalie Zaman. Thanks Natalie!
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  1. I had wanted to see the movie or read the book and haven't done either yet. Thanks for the review. :O)

    1. I am definitely going to be seeing the movie now that I read the book. It'll be interesting to see the illustrations in live-action. Definitely check the book and movie out!


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