Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I have had The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, checked out of the library for several months.(Yes, I did mean to say months.) Though I really did not recall anything specific regarding the review prompting it's purchase, one cursory glance through the book was enough for me to tag it with the ephemeral hot pink post it note, signifying "dibs" when shelf ready.

This book is a visual treat; not book eye candy, it has substance. In a nod towards the history of film it is reminiscent of silent movie screens with each page depicted as a white screen on a black background (or page border). The introduction, part one, part two, and book acknowledgements are presented as white text on black paper, again similar to the words between acts in the movies. While these aspects are clever, the real triumph of this novel is the illustrations. Selznick’s illustrations, pencil on watercolor paper, are works of art. Images are so elegant and full of depth, when turning pages readers will be surprised not to have pencil on their hands. Unique to this type of juvenile literature, a non-picture book, the illustrations not only highlight action taking place, they are an integral part of the story and key to understanding many nuances of the story.

It is 1931 and Hugo Cabret, orphaned at an early age by the untimely death of his father and more recent disappearance of his uncle, lives by his wits in a busy Paris train station. His job, that of his uncle, winding all of the clocks in the station to keep time, presents him with opportunity to work with what he loves best, clocks, gears, and the mysterious automated man his father rescued from a burning museum before his death. Hugo’s quest to restore the automation leads him to contact a puzzling old man, his young granddaughter, and ultimately the magic of filmmaking. Story and illustration combine to offer a distinctive tale of mystery, magic, and family. This book is not to be missed.

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