The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Scholastic Press, 2007
Hardback 544pp 12.99 [pounds sterling]
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a unique book; the author Brian Selznick says of his creation that it is 'not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.' He manages to achieve this difficult task with flair and a clear narrative, creating a book that is something of a work of art.
The book, set in a Parisian station in 1931, centres around Hugo, an orphan who lives in the walls and maintains the clocks. He does this unbeknown to the station authorities and does it because he does not know what else to do, all of the adults in his life have died. Hugo's greatest passion is an automaton that his father saved from a burning museum and he is desperate to make it work again.
For the rest of the world Hugo is just a thief and he operates in the shadows, making do and mending. A brutal clash with the old man who runs the toy stall on the station, and Hugo's subsequent befriending by the old man's goddaughter and a young film student, set his life on a new and surprising path where coincidence and twists of fate bring the main characters together for an unexpected denouement.
Strong themes of time, family, loss and secrets run through the book and the story manages to be moving without being over sentimental. We engage with the characters in a fascinating way, due to the way we read the book. Having around 50% of the narrative 'delivered' through illustration is a strange and new experience--not comic, not graphic novel but as near to a silent film as anything. This is something of a masterstroke, as we come to realise that the world of early silent films, particularly those of 'Georges Melies', are central to the plot. The weaving together of mechanical wizards, magicians and early film makers gives some idea of the utter wonderment with which film was received in its early years. I have no doubt that reading this book will provide real inspiration for teachers and students to explore the work of these early filmmakers and also deepen their understanding of the many visual media we experience.
Overall, a stunning book with charcoal illustrations that alone carry much meaning and are things of beauty. A tale where hope and wonder ultimately overcome death, disillusionment and despair.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2008|
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