sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 10, 2010

into the stacks: the invention of hugo cabret
posted by soe 10:43 pm

readathonI admit it: I totally fell off the wagon for five or six hours this afternoon when I had a mini hissy fit, took a clearly much needed nap, and then went on a walk with Rudi. We stopped for a hot chocolate before taking a new way to our neighborhood park, which showed us a little crevice with chairs and tables next to a waterfall clearly meant for weekday lunches but which didn’t seem to be cordoned off from others who might want to sit there. Exciting, no?

I’ve put down my gardening book, haven’t started the book I took on my walk, and instead have picked up a book I’d bought years ago from my favorite local bookstore chain which has since gone out of business.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

From the jacket: “Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks — like the gears of the clocks he keeps — with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.”

My take: You know how when you’re a kid they tell you that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover? It’s true, but also a total lie. You shouldn’t, but people do it all the time. And I did it with this book. This book may have my favorite cover of all time (ooh! I should have thought of it this morning when that question came up!) and I totally judged the type of book it would be (fantasy) based on what I saw. I even bought it based on that.

But it’s absolutely not. It’s historical fiction. And it’s innovative at that, combining an engrossing fictional main character with a real life Frenchman from early in the 20th century with 284 drawings plus photos to create something that blurs the line between historical fiction, graphic novel, and cinema.

Hugo is twelve and living alone in the walls of Gare Montparnasse, a Parisian train station, after his father is killed in a freak accident and his drunk uncle disappears. Fearing what will become of him should anyone guess his secret, he keeps up his uncle’s job of winding the station’s 27 clocks, hoping to remain under the radar of the Station Inspector.

Yet Hugo has a second, more precious secret. He has the project his father, a clockmaker and tinkerer, had been working on at his death hidden in the station, too, and is desperately trying to finish his father’s work, hoping for a message from beyond the grave. [By the way, can someone help me recall the word I’m looking for? I wanted “from beyond the grave” to correspond to “preternatural,” but according to the dictionary that’s wishful thinking on my part. Does the word I actually want spring to anyone’s fingertips?]

Yet to do that, Hugo’s forced to steal parts from the local toyshop, where he’s eventually caught by the owner. His father’s notebook is taken and later, the old man claims, burned. But the man’s young charge, his god-daughter Isabelle, says otherwise. To find out the truth — and to finish his father’s work — he must stay close and work to get back the only thing that truly belongs to him. Or does it?

Anyone who loves an afternoon at the movies should read this book. Know that the high page count is related to the massive number of drawings and it’s cinematic approach and that the reading time will fly past. It may take younger readers several days to finish, but more advanced readers can easily finish it in several hours, even with time to savor the work as a whole.

Pages: 534

Category: books. There is/are 2 Comments.

The walk sounds lovely. As does your book! Happy reading!!

Comment by softdrink 04.10.10 @ 11:20 pm

A story is a special thing
The ones that I have read
They do not stay inside the books
They stay inside my head.
(author unknown)

Looks like you’re having a great read-a-thon. Sometimes we all need a break.

Comment by carol 04.11.10 @ 12:16 am