The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Hugo Cabret
Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-439-81376-5
Rating: 5/5 stars
Awards:
  • 2008 Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner
  • National Book Award Finalist
  • #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults
  • USA Today Bestseller
  • #1 BookSense Bestseller
  • New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007
  • Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2007
  • A New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing
  • An American Library Association Notable Children’s Book
  • A 2007 Quill Award Winner (Children’s Chapter/Middle Grade category)
Do not be intimidated by the size of this book.  As part picture book, part novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret must be a quick recommendation for all reluctant readers.  In the same vein as St. Francis of Assisi, Brian Selznick tells an intricate story, but uses words only when necessary.  His pictures are certainly worth a thousand words.  In this book, Selznick retells a historical fiction account of the magician turned filmmaker, Georges Melies, through the eyes of a young boy.  The main character, Hugo Cabret, is a possible orphan, surviving on his own, scraping by, desperately hoping to not get caught without adult supervision.  Hugo’s character provides an opportunity for the pre-teen in all of us to see if we would be able to make it on our own. At the same time, however, Selznick intricately weaves a story full of delightful suspense and surprising emotion.  The black and white images of the story display such detail and feeling; words are not necessary.  Set in the 1930s, the images bring alive a time long ago, complimented by the intricate word pictures Selznick paints of the train station and characters.  Selznick almost brings to life all five senses, certainly seeing the emotion of the hungry Hugo, but the reader also can almost hear the tick tock of the clocks slowing with each passing day, taste the croissant and milk Hugo has to steal for nourishment, feel the snow as it hushes the heels quickly crossing the town, smell the coal of the often arriving trains.  A master with words and picture, Selznick balances empathy for orphans with justice for all seamlessly.  Resolving conflicts and tying up lose ends often, Selznick keeps the reading moving at a quick pace with the detailed illustrations, even illustrating the text only pages, including only the amount of text necessary.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret will draw in a reluctant reader, encouraging more reading about the real life person of Georges Melies.  Start reading today!
Professional Review Excerpt: “It told a story with unexpected emotional power: A boy obsessed with Harry Houdini actually meets his idol in Grand Central Terminal. He is enthralled, then disillusioned, then — years later — triumphantly makes the connection he had been yearning for all his life. The book presents deep mysteries, shattered dreams and dreams regained. Our children loved it, and so did we.” – New York Times, Sunday Book Review
Sources:
Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret. New York, NY: Scholastic Press, 2007.
Scholastic. “Awards for The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/awards-invention-hugo-cabret.
Schwartz, John.  “New York Times Sunday Book Review.” (11 March 2007) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/books/review/Schwartz.t.html?_r=0.
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