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A Truly Graphic Novel: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I want to share with you a truly amazing novel, but if you can’t take my word for it, please believe the Caldecott award judges; author Brian Selznick was awarded the 2008 Caldecott Award. (The Caldecott is the “oscar” prize for children’s book illustration.)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a novel about a young boy who suddenly left alone by his irresponsible uncle. Afraid to tell anyone, he keeps doing his uncle’s job: tending the clocks in a massive Paris train station, much like New York City’s Grand Central Station. The young boy, Hugo, finds a broken automata. There’s a mystery about an old man, who turns about to be Georges Méliès, an automata collector, and the filmmaker behind that famous early black and white film where the moon gets hit in the eye by a rocket (View the wikipedia image of A Trip to the Moon).

All of the illustrations are in black and white with a film noir feel – charcoal or pencil crosshatching. What’s truly amazing, is that this long novel has a full page illustration on each right page! The novel is two or three inches thick, with 550 pages. This book almost reads like a comic book or graphic novel, it is so rich with imagery. It really looks almost like a film story board (a plan of a movies shots in sequence.) This would be a fantastic book for anyone having trouble reading or a “reluctant reader” – someone who isn’t that interested in classic fiction. (And let’s be honest here – when we have free time, do we reach for The Scarlett Letter or Dickens? -No. The answer is ‘no.’)

You can peek inside The Invention of Hugo Cabret on Amazon’s website. There is also a video interview with author Brian Selznick on the book’s Amazon webpage, which shows a lot of the illustrations. He talks a lot about film in the interview, and I can see that this book is very filmic in its storytelling. He had another children’s book about film, where a young man ended up in the movies. On the book’s Amazon webpage, there ia also an illustration about two thirds down the page, that had to be cut from the book (ouch! the author knew it was painful, but wrote that the camera shop setting was wrong.)

If you get a chance, get your hands on this book. It was a pleasure to read, and the illustrations make it a fun romp. I can’ wait to share this with some kids.

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