Brain Selznick certainly deserves kudos for the unique presentation of this story. What makes The Invention of Hugo Cabret so worthwhile, however, is that there is a really solid story foundation upon which all these unique elements are built. I have written before about how some children’s books transcend their market because they are so well written. I believe Hugo Cabret falls within this category. And yet it is a story that is also simply told. Selznick could have certainly taken the time to give even more detail and depth to the story but instead he kept his eyes focused on the market for which he was writing and by doing so creates a very rich and rewarding reading experience for both younger children and adults. In some aspects The Invention of Hugo Cabret is indeed simple–deceptively simple. Hidden within the mystery of the story Selznick introduces the reader to a turn of the century film maker of whom I had not heard whose part in film history plays a central role in the story.
It is the introduction of a real and factual person that makes Hugo Cabret stand out from other young adult novels. I know very little about Brian Selznick but reading his book certainly made me feel that he was a man after my own heart. I am a big fan of film and it delighted me so much to learn about this prolific film maker and what happened to his films. I am sure that his goal was to introduce this person into the lives of young people who would have otherwise never heard of him and my hope is that they, like me, will do more research and discover the wonder of early film making and the magic these people were able to create in the days before CG and big-budget special effects.
It is no wonder that this book has such appeal. Every little nook and cranny of the tale has some story element or visual element or combination of the two that engages the reader in the mystery and adventure as it unfolds for Hugo Cabret. Despite its daunting size and page count this is a very quick read. Multiple full page picture spreads and pages with as few as a single paragraph on them combine with a page-turning plot that makes the experience of reading this story a brief but fulfilling one. Selznick’s drawings are wonderfully detailed and do just as advertised: they propel the story forward. No image in the book is a simple rehashing of the prose, each image advances the story and makes the story come alive.
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