Douglas Cootey's Reviews > The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
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Oct 21, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, middle-grade, graphic-novel
Recommended to Douglas by: My 10yo
Recommended for: Lovers of Paris, mystery, and clocks.
Read in October, 2009, read count: 1

This hybrid graphic novel/written novel is a treasure. The Leprechaun brought it home one day and raved about it. I was simply floored by the scope of the project. So many illustrations. Such mystery.

The illustrations are top notch pencil renderings depicting Paris in the 30s. They work in tandem with the written part of the story, both passing off the baton of narration throughout the book. I found them charming and evocative. They especially make full use of graphic novel storytelling tools to convey mood, tension, and information.

The story is told in two parts. The first is for the reader and concerns the plight of young Hugo who is orphaned and surviving in a cold, adult world as he solves the mystery of the automaton. The second is more self-indulgent and features the author's fascination with French film maker, George Méliès. I found it less compelling. It is nonetheless still interesting.

The format of the book is a marvel and well-worth taking a look at. I am glad to have this book in my collection. My only complaint is that the characters are as flat as the paper they are drawn on. The heavy lifting for emotion and context is done through the nuance of illustration. The narration tends to be uninspired. Therefor the characters never more than puppets moved about a felt board by the author. I suspect this is because Selznick's forte is illustration, not writing. He may have been better served pursuing a more traditional graphic novel approach utilizing word balloons and letting the art carry the story completely.

That being said, I am still very impressed with the effort and look forward to his next project. This was a massive undertaking along the same lines as Shaun Tan's "The Arrival". Highly recommended.
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