The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (2007)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Interest level: 6-Adult
This Caldecott Award winning title defies classification. It’s more than 500 pages long, with some 150 illustrations spread over nearly 300 pages that advance the story like a graphic novel, but designed more like a very long picture book. Selznick calls it a novel in words and pictures, but occasionally it also feels like a film, reinforced by the opening instructions to imagine ourselves in a theatre, with the curtains pulling apart … It’s the story of Hugo, a 12-year-old orphan who lives in a hidden room in a train station. He learns the art of clock maintenance from his uncle, the Timekeeper, a drunk who regularly disappeared and one day never returned, leaving Hugo to fend for himself. He steals to feed himself, and to work on his secret project, one his father began before his death in a fire. Despite himself, he becomes involved with Isabel and her angry godfather who runs the toy booth where Hugo steals the parts he needs. The story unfolds in an astonishing blend of words and images by Selznick. He uses pencil on watercolour paper to create illustrations that bring the reader right into the busy, noisy world of a Paris train station in 1931. My favourite image series is an early one, in which it’s revealed how Hugo is spying on the man in the toy booth. While the story is intended for children, the appeal of this novel in words and images is very broad. Loved it.
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