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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Brian Selznick

Published by Scholastic Press, 2007
533 pages
ISBN: 0439813786
price: $22.99

Ages 9-13

Brian Selznick’s compelling, cinematic narrative is a deft combination of visual and verbal storytelling in a novel full of mystery, intrigue and the irresistible lure of possibility. Hugo Cabret is a boy living in a Paris train station in 1931. He is following in uncle’s footsteps as caretaker of the station clocks. Hugo is hopeful that if he can keep the clocks wound and running on time, no one will notice his uncle is missing and he’ll be able to cotinue to carry out his most important work: repairing the automaton that he salvaged from a museum fire. Hugo’s father had been working on the robot at the time of his death, and Hugo is convinced that if he can get the mechanical man with the pen in his hand working, it will convey a message from his father. Hugo’s plans are disrupted when the old man who runs the station toy booth catches him stealing his small, mechanical toys for parts. The man confiscates the notebook that had all of the plans sketched by Hugo’s father for repairing the automaton. With the help of the toy man’s granddaughter, Hugo is determined to get the notebook back, even as he begins to wonder why the man found the sketches so upsetting, and why his mechanical toys have parts that fit perfectly into the robot. Selznick’s story unfolds through prose and dozens of dramatic, full-page, black-and-white drawings. The two mediums create a narrative whole that is further unified by the use of black to frame every page spread in a tale that is cinematic in theme as well as scope and appearance: Hugo’s electrifying success in fixing the automaton leads him to an astonishing secret about the toy man and his role in the early history of French movie-making—a secret that the old man is reluctant to have known. Readers will be captivated by the fictional Hugo, whose quest encompasses the real-life French filmmaker Georges Méličs, as well as a sweetly satisfying search for friendship and family. (MS) ©2007 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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