Today I decided to join in Shannon Messenger's Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday. If you click on the link, you can go to her blog and check out the list of other bloggers who are participating and read their reviews, interviews, contests, etc, all to do with middle grade books.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Inc, 2007, 544 pages.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Caldecott Honor artist Brian Selznick's lavishly illustrated debut novel is a cinematic tour de force not to be missed! ORPHAN, CLOCK KEEPER, AND THIEF, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.
This was such a fun book to read, so rich with the perfect combination of text and drawings. My eight year old son and I took turns reading this one to each other and we both loved it, were enthralled with the story and had a hard time putting it down. There are pages of text, then pages of drawings, both of which cleverly move the story along. This book has everything: adventure, treachery, friendship, history, betrayal, imagination, and a message.
The characters are engaging, especially Hugo. I felt so bad for him and his impossible situation, his grasping at straws to find a connection with his father. Kids will be rooting for him, wanting him to overcome all of the unfair things in his life. He is clever and sharp, as well as innovative and passionate.
Isabelle is a good foil for Hugo, a young girl, also smart, but in a different way. The dynamic of their friendship seems real to me, from the way they get along to the way they fight.
George Melies is the old man and antagonist of the book,. Although he is mean to Hugo, he is shrouded in mystery, a mystery that the children are eager to solve.
The fictional story of Hugo intermingles with historical France of the 1930s and the history of film. This is done well, with the pictures as guides. I loved the mingling of the real history of the film and culture of France with the fictional story of Hugo.
The clockwork and automaton part of the plot will really appeal to the imagination and to those who are mechanically inclined or who like steampunk novels. This, combined with the illustrations, is so cool and vivid.
And then there is the ever true underlying message of the book - follow your dreams, this is the way to happiness and fulfillment.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a wonderful, magical book that instantly captures the imagination. Although it looks long and may be intimidating to kids, there are so many pictures, at least half the book (284 pages worth). These are beautiful and well drawn and definitely add to the excitement and drama of the book. This is more than an illustrated book, or a novel with illustrations. Pick it up and you'll see what I mean.