The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznik
2007
Caldecott Medal

If you are unfamiliar with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, you might be tempted to reserve this at your local library for your 5 year old. After all, it won a Caldecott and that cover looks intriguing, doesn’t it? And there you would be disappointed (for your 5-year-old’s sake). Because this is a book the size and heft of a later Harry Potter volume.

And there, the similarities end. Can’t judge a book by its cover, can you? The Invention of Hugo Cabret is getting lots of renewed press these days because the author/illustrator has contributed another gigantic words-and-pictures novel to the children’s literary scene. Will the next one (Wonderstruck) be a medal contender for Caldecott or Newbery? That is the question.

In the meantime, here’s a quick review of Hugo: this 500+ page tome is nearly equally split between full page illustrations and pages of text. Unlike a graphic novel, the images and text are not juxtaposed on the same page. The best description of this book I’ve seen is that it is like a movie–fitting because it includes some early film history and an early film maker as one of the main characters.

Historical fiction like you’ve never seen it before, this is a fun book to read and will likely entice reluctant readers since there are so many amazing illustrations. I wasn’t wowed by the plot line/writing so much as impressed with how Selznik plays with the conventions of a novel. Still, it’s worth reading and, much as I enjoy audio books, this is one you have to “see to believe.” When you (or your young reader) get wrapped up in Hugo’s world and want to know more, check out The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

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