Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Invention of Hugo Cabret


Yes, yes, I realize that this book won numerous awards last year so this review is a bit behind the times.  But the book was recently recommended to me by a very enthusiastic 12-year-old so I had to pick it up...

The Invention of Hugo Cabret takes place in early 20th century Paris where a young and penniless orphan, Hugo, spends his days running the clocks in the train station and stealing food, and his nights working on a writing automaton in a tiny forgotten room inside the station.  Ever since his father died trying to fix the automaton he found in the attic of a museum, Hugo has been passionate about repairing it, hoping that the message the automaton will write will somehow be a message from his father.  To get the parts for his project, he steals mechanical toys from the little shop in the train station.  However, when the owner there, a mysterious and bitter old man, catches him in the act, Hugo enters into a new adventure- a far less lonely one- tangled with a cast of characters all connected to his beloved automaton.

Well, the first thing I was intrigued by in the story was (of course) the unique format of the half picture book/half novel.  I loved how Brian Selznick used the pictures to tell the story rather than just emphasize whatever the words are saying.  As a Francophile, I like the setting in Paris and I thought the illustrations were perfect.  Although I couldn't really identify with any of the characters, I think that the characters were almost incidental.  I felt that the emphasis of the story was on images (definitely supported by the use of pictures instead of words in so much of the story) and there were many images that will stay with me.  

The picture book (graphic novel?)/novel idea is quite unique.  I think Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix would have been easier to read with that combination.  Some of those fight/chase scenes were hard to follow! 

Any books you would like to see as hybrids?  Any picture book that could use more words or novels that could use pictures for part of the story?  


3 comments:

nathaniel wallace said...

I remember reading a review of this book quite a while ago and being interested, but I had completely forgotten the name. Thanks for the reminder!

I particularly like an old (sadly, mildewed) copy of A Wind in the Willows with some beautiful full-page illustrations. I do think that illustrations are underused in adult literature - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell used some fantastic ones.

Fourstorymistake said...

It's definitely a quick but enjoyable read!

I've never read (shamefully) Jonathan Strange- I didn't even know it was illustrated! I'll have to check it out.

A Wind in the Willows has had some amazing illustrators- Arthur Rackham and Ernest H. Shepard among them- work on it. That book would make a great story/graphic novel hybrid.

nathaniel wallace said...

this is absolutely the wrong forum for a conversation like this, but if you need a reading buddy, bronwen is reading jonathan strange right now.