The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Take a moment with me to try something a little different.  Chances are you’ve heard of the book I’m reviewing today, since it is one of the few novel style books to win a Caldecott Medal.  It is undoubtedly unique in style, and so, we are going to take a unique approach to this. Close your eyes….

Wait…don’t close your eyes!  That might make it a little hard to read.  Just follow along with me here.

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Invention of Hugo Cabret by Selznick

Imagine you are in a movie theater.

The lights go dark…

The curtain rises…

Suddenly, you see a whole new world appear in front of you.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick perfectly blends two different art forms while paying homage to a number of others. A mix of traditional writing and intricate sketches, the illustrations don’t show you what the words say but instead fill in the pieces the words miss. As a reader, you’ll spend hours getting lost in the intricate sketches and along the way learn about the history of movies and automatons.

Hugo Cabret is a young orphan boy living in a Parisian train station.  His life depends on staying hidden, but that changes when he meets a young girl and a crabby old man.  From there, he is slowly drawn out into a mysterious new world and a new way of living.

Who Should Read This?

This is a fantastic book to help die-hard graphic novel fans transition into traditional reading.  Graphic novels have done a wonderful job getting the reluctant readers to sit and enjoy books, but there are few that can bridge the gap toward a more traditional novel.  This book does exactly that.

This is also a great choice for anyone interested in movie history, exciting mysteries, beautiful art, non-traditional formatting of books, and so much more.  One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the way the author makes you feel like you’re involved in some magical mystery, but everything that happens is based in the real world and could actually happen.

Who Shouldn’t Read This?

If you’re the sort of reader that gets frustrated by books doing weird and different things, you probably won’t enjoy this as much.  It requires a bit of mental flexibility to bounce between the story told in words and the part told in pictures.

Also, if you’re looking for a meaty novel, this is not going to be it.  The book is thick, but it’s largely illustrations and even the text has wide margins and borders around it.

And with that… I’ll say if you haven’t read this book yet (and I’ll admit, I’d be surprised if you haven’t), you NEED to read it.  Honestly, most skilled readers can easily finish this book in an afternoon, but you’ll likely take longer just soaking in all the details in the art.  That said, I hadn’t realized just how hooked I was until the chase scene in the middle.  Instead of leisurely flipping through pages, I was frantically flipping to see if he would get away.  Any book that can do that is worth the time!

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