The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

About the Book:
After his father dies and his uncle disappears, Hugo finds himself living alone in the walls of a Paris train station.  But he is not totally on his own; he has with him a mechanical man, a broken marvel that his father had been trying to fix when he died.  Hugo has taken to stealing toys from the toy shop to find gears and mechanisms to fix the mechanical man, and he’s almost finished fixing it when the toy shop owner finally catches him.  But all is not lost.  While Hugo starts to know more about the old man who owns the toy shop, and the old man’s goddaughter who holds an intriguing key, his world is on the verge of discovering something incredible about the mechanical man, and the history of film.
My Thoughts:
Where to begin?  This book has been on my radar since before the movie came out, but I’ve always hesitated reading it because of its size.  Then I realized that much of the book is taken up by pictures, so I decided to give it a go.  I didn’t really realize just how quick of a read this is, though; when I finally took it home, I read the entire book (over 500 pages) in one day.  It’s a very deceiving piece of literature!

And it’s a very interesting one, too.  I thought this book was going to be a fantasy…even when I started reading it, I thought this was where it was headed.  However, I was mistaken.  It’s actually a historical fiction, though it’s pretty unique in that it tells some of the history of the beginning of film.  Thus, the use of pictures makes a lot of sense for this book.  A lot of the images are illustrations, but some of them are not.  Some are movie stills from old film footage, and some are real images of historical events.  It was really neat to see all of these things combined in one book, meshed together in a way that just happens to work.

I do have to say that this book is more about the pictures than it is about the story.  The text of this book is rather short, and pretty simplistic.  I enjoyed the history I was learning about film, but I didn’t enjoy the fictional story very much.  Every single character (except for like, two or three) were mean.  There was a lot of yelling in the story, everyone was heartless, and it was one of those stories that could have been wrapped up in five pages had the characters just explained themselves instead of running away all the time.  I was expecting a bit more from the story aspect of this book than what I received.

However, this is still a worthwhile book, simply because of its uniqueness.  I would definitely recommend this to a wide range of patrons.  Those that like historical fiction, films, magic, mystery, and maybe even fantasy would probably find this a good read.  In addition, this is a fabulous cross-over from graphic novels, I think.  It would be good for either introducing someone to the concept of images being just as important (or more so) than text, and likewise it would be a good way to get a graphic novel reader to look at a slightly more traditional novel.  It’s also an easy read, but it comes in a big package, which could be great for reluctant readers to build their confidence (as long as you show them that it is an attainable feat!)

Rating: ***

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