"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 type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”
Hugo Cabret is a young orphan who lives in a clock tower in a train station in Paris. He spends his days winding the giant clocks and stealing parts from the shops in the station to work on his father's last project—a broken-down mechanical man. But then an old toymaker catches him in the act of thievery and takes away his father's notebook. If Hugo wants it back, he must earn it by working in the shop.
While he works, Hugo makes friends with the toymaker's goddaughter Isabelle. Yet in his quest to recover the notebook and fix the automaton, he makes the astonishing discovery that, just like the machines he is so fond of fixing, his life is inextricably wound up with those of the people he meets.
Don't be daunted by the book's 500 pages—the story is not actually that long. The bulk of the book is taken up by the 284 lush illustrations. But these are not typical illustrations, the kind that merely show in picture form what's already been described in the story. These illustrations are part of the story. Like a silent film, the storytelling is balanced between pictures and words, cutting seamlessly from illustrations to dialogue and description as Hugo's story unfolds. It is brilliantly done, and it is full of details that invite re-reading.
Brian Selznick's love for the silent films of the old days is evident. He noticed a lack of books about the old movies for children, and so he set out to write one himself. He tells the story of the later life of Georges Méliès, a pioneer of early cinema who brought his talent as a magician and illusionist to the art of filmmaking. The fate of Méliès is the mystery of the book, and Selznick deftly weaves in all sorts of historical facts about the early days of film, including the use of actual stills of Méliès' old films.
With it's thrilling story and fantastic illustrations, the book is as captivating and dreamlike as the films it explores, with an equally satisfying ending; Georges Méliès rediscovers his purpose, and Hugo finds a place to call home. Part picture book, part novel, part storyboard, part film—Invention of Hugo Cabret is a gorgeous book that deserves a place on every child's bookshelf.
In 2011 the book was made into the Oscar award-winning movie Hugo. It was a good adaptation, retaining most of the charm of the book while delving further into the history of the first movies.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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