Rave Reviews Log: Historical Fiction

May 10, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures

By Brian Selznik
Era: early 20th century Paris
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

Although this book weighs in at a hefty 526 pages, fear not! Less than 200 of those pages have words on them! Brian Selznik breaks new ground by telling a novel-like story in both traditional pages of text as well as over 300 pages of illustrations that serve to move the story along. Hugo Cabret is a boy working to keep all the clocks running in a Paris train station. The uncle who should be doing the job has disappeared, and afraid of what will happen to him if anyone finds out, Hugo keeps himself hidden. But Hugo has another secret--a mechanical automaton that his father had been trying to repair when he died. Hugo feels like the automaton will be able to write a message to him from his father if he can only get it working, so he steals parts from the toymaker in the station. One day, the toymaker, Papa Georges, catches him and finds on Hugo a notebook with drawings of the automaton and seems shocked. But how can a toymaker know about the automaton? Hugo, and the toymaker's adopted daughter, Isabelle, form an unlikely alliance which leads them to discover the message from the automaton and the real identity of Papa Georges. Most of the action scenes are described via the pictures instead of the text, and once the reader gets used to this, the story flows well. The plot is fast-paced, and readers will fly through it to its happy conclusion, learning about clocks, early movies, and the power of dreams along the way.


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