“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick


First a note: you may notice that this is a “YA” (Young Adult) book, and you may wonder why a somewhat more mature reader (ok, maturity is debatable) chose to read it.  Well, recently I was reading an old post by John Scalzi (great sci-fi author; I’ve got a few reviews to his books elsewhere on my blog) called “Why YA?”  — apparently a lot of good stuff is happening in the genre nowadays.  I’m up for any great story, no matter where it can be found.  It kind of resonated with me as well because I am always on the search for family-friendly fiction, and the YA category seems a safe bet.  Anyhow, I kind of went crazy scanning through Amazon Listmania and Goodreads lists looking up some hot YA books.  I got way too many through the library’s book reservation system, but likely I can churn through them pretty quick … this first one only took me an evening.

I can’t say I tremendously liked “Hugo Cabret.”  The book is an interesting combination of novel and picture book – about half the pages are entirely illustrations.  The story and characters are kind of boring though.  (But, like I indicated above, I am probably not the author’s target audience here.)  The illustrations are decent, but they are all in pencil and kind of blend into each other; nothing really outstanding.  I think Selznick should have cut most of the illustrations out, and focused on the remaining ones to make them really spectacular.  Another nit-pick is that both the kids in the story are kleptomaniacs – I lost track how many instances of thievery they commit – but apparently that’s a-ok….

The story has to do with a boy living in a secret room in a train station.  He’s obsessed with fixing up an automaton, a continuation of his dead father’s work.  About halfway through, the book takes an awkward twist and ends up being about the French early film director Georges Melies.  The iconic (and slightly creepy) image of the man in the moon with a rocket ship stuck in his eye (from “A Trip to the Moon“) was familiar to me, but otherwise I didn’t know much about the guy.

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