Saturday, June 16, 2012

YA Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you go to bed thinking about the novel you haven't finished reading yet, when you wake up several times thinking about the novel you haven't finished reading yet, when go over in your head what you want to write on your blog before you finishing reading the are reading a good book.

I read Wonderstruck first, a few months back, and heard my 8th grade students mutter that The Invention of Hugo Cabret was better.

While I won't weigh one against the other, I will say that I loved this novel. And I have become a fan of Brian Selznick's voice.

I like the charm and nostalgic atmosphere around his characters. Both Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck takes the reader back towards the silent film era, the early parts of the twentieth century. He brings actors and buildings and real moments from history to life. Ultimately, he weaves a stories together that send me running to Google--I want to see the connections; I want to see the faces.

In the Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the reader follows the journey of Hugo, an orphaned twelve year-old. Hugo steals to eat, and he steals mechanical toys to bring an automaton to life--he believes it belonged to his father, and if he can make it work again, perhaps it would write him a message...a message from his father.

In the process, readers come to know the name Georges Melies (magician, inventor, filmmaker, dreamer)--Selznick has a great knack of resurrecting important and influential history. I love how he uses museums, celestial mythology, and friendship in each.

Museums are places of magic, imagination, and wonder.

The mythology--the lightning in Wonderstruck; the legend of Promethus and the stars on Melies' cape (Hugo) are the centers of that familiar rustling we feel and hear--the ancient bonds we have with the natural world--awestruck, our very core still regards the stars, the moon, the lightning as the forces romanticized by Shakespeare. Humans star at them in the same manner as dogs will stare off towards the woods--a thread of ancestral memory tweaked--feeling more than remembering the days when they roamed free, undomesticated.

The magic in the friendships--boy to girl--and child to adult--distinguishes itself from much of the conflict written today. A year or so ago, I asked YA author Christina Gonzalez if she could think of any YA novels featuring a male adult with a positive influence and connection to the teen protagonist. I had recently read Jacqueline Kelly's The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and connected with grandfather--and respected the relationship Kelly managed to forge between male adult and child. Selznick does that here to a certain degree. While Hugo and Melies' relationship begins with theft, the reader understands (long before we learn who Melies is from history) that the old man feels a developing bond, sees something in the kid, and we can feel that they are destined to come together at the end of the story.

A wholesome adventure--imagine fresh milk and homemade apple pie from your great grandparents--and imagine sitting with them and enjoying it with them for the first time.

Read the book, and then put it in your classroom library. When a kid asks for something to read--you can hand them this book with confidence.

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