Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Everyone already knows what a good book Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret is, right? After all, it won the Caldecott medal (the longest book ever to do so). So I'm, as so often, late to this party, but I still have to say: it's a really good book.

I'm not a big fan of illustration.* This is not to say I dislike it, only that I don't know a lot about it and don't require it in the books I read. But Selznick came up with a way to tell a story through words and pictures that works perfectly, evoking the feel of the early motion pictures to which the book serves as a kind of homage. The story--a mystery, an orphan tale, and a little bit of a chase--carries us into the past, but a past that is recognizably important to our own present. Magic, dreams, and mechanical invention all come together. It's a lovely book, a read-aloud worth dwelling on with younger kids as well as a satisfying solo read.

*Nonetheless several of my favorites lately: The True Meaning of Smek-Day, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Un Lun Dun, and now Hugo Cabret, are all illustrated novels in which the illustrations form an integral part rather than simply feeling like decoration. So I may have to revise my statement above.

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