The Invention Of Hugo CabretTitle: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
ISBN: 0439813786
Pages: 533 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, c2007.

“But before you turn the page, I want you to picture yourself sitting in the darkness, like the beginning of a movie. On screen, the sun will soon rise, and you will find yourself zooming toward a train station in the middle of the city. You will rush through the doors into a crowded lobby. You will evnetually spot a boy amid the crowd, and he will start to move through the train station. Follow him, because this is Hugo Cabret. His head is full of secrets, and he’s waiting for his story to begin.” (1)

After these words, readers have over 40 pages of beautifully drawn black and white illustrations which show not only the scene just described, but continue the story. Interspersed with increasing amounts of text, 284 pages of these drawings advance the story and make it seem like a movie’s story board than a novel. The first work of fiction to win a Caldecott Award (besides the usual picture books) tells the story of Hugo Cabret, a twelve year old orphan who cares for the clocks in the Paris train station after his uncle abandoned the job. Set in 1931, it interweaves true references to real life occurances with the story of how Hugo’s own secrets set in motion the exposure of an even bigger secret, one that affects the bitter old toy shop owner and his god-daughter and a man with an eye-patch. Things aren’t what they appear, and thieves and secrets lurk in ever corner of this highly acclaimed book by Brian Selznick. You need to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret at least twice, once for the plot and once for the pictures, but I think most readers will return to this book again and again.

It’s understandable why this book won the Caldecott. The drawings are highly detailed pencil sketchings that pulls the readers in. A picture is worth a thousand words, so words can’t express the magic, which is why you have to “read” this one for yourself. It’s an engaging story based in fact, and will probably encourage kids to look for more information about automata and early cinematography. (Read the book and you’ll know what I’m talking about). People who enjoy this book might also want to read Vögelein: Clockwork Faerie series by Jane Irwin. When I talked to her at a librarian conference last year, she was working on a webcomic about a “chess playing automaton” that once played Napolean. I keep looking for a link that works but everything I’ve found gives me an error message. If anyone knows of a working link, please post it. I’d love to see how the story is progressing.