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The Invention of Hugo Cabret: 09/08/09

I first heard of The Invention of Hugo Cabret from Dewey. I was taken in with the illustrations she posted and didn't even bother with the plot. It didn't matter to me what the plot was, it was a beautiful graphic novel. I waited though a full year before I bought a copy; the opportunity presented itself during a Scholastic book drive at my son's school.

What I didn't expect from the book (having done no research and not even reading any blurbs or reviews beyond admiring the pretty illustrations) is the sort of personal connection I had with it. The book's big secret has the same emotional ties for me as Tasmania details in The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay. My first clue that this would be a book I will treasure comes at the dedication: "For Remy Charlip and David Serlin." Remy Charlip wrote my all time favorite book of children's poetry, Arm in Arm. The second clue is the author's name: Brian Selznick. He is He is a first cousin, once removed, of David O. Selznick and I'm an ex-film major. 
Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives between the walls of the Paris train station where he keeps the clocks running. He has inherited an automaton from his father but it needs new parts for fixing. Hugo collects the parts when he can but when his father's notebook is taken away by a grumpy old toy seller Hugo figures he'll never be able to finish his father's project.

That's the set up of part one, told mostly in pictures with a smattering of text and dialogue. Everything clicks into place, with the benefit of a suspension of disbelief at the end of this section. The "what-if" part of the novel comes full force in the second half of this novel.

As it's a graphic novel and heavier on the drawings than on the text, you can easily read the book in the course of an afternoon. I hope though that you will linger over the artwork and let it sink in. For anyone who knows the basics of French film history, the clues are all there. For anyone who doesn't, the author provides the info you need at the end of the book. Knowledge of film history isn't required but for early film buffs The Invention of Hugo Cabret is extra special.

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