Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"The Invention of Hugo Cabret"

Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc 2007
Genre: Mixture of novel, picture book
Age Range: 3-6
2008 Caldecott Medal Book

Summary: The story is told about a young orphan named Hugo. He lives in the train station keeping the clocks for his uncle, who disappeared. He must do so in secrecy. He has notebooks full of drawings of robots because his father had found an automaton, but had tragically died in a fire. Hugo gets the robot and begins putting the pieces together. Meanwhile, he is introduced to a toy shop keeper and his god daughter. Hugo is caught stealing from them and must repay the man by fixing broken toys. Hugo's secret is learned by the god daughter, after he steals the key around her neck to crank the finished robot. When it is completed, the robot draws a picture from the scene of a movie. Hugo goes to the home of the shop keeper with the god daughter and reveals that her god father is in fact a famous movie maker.

Response: This book was so intense from start to finish. There was this mysterious atmosphere that was radiating off the pages, and added upon by the fact that the illustrations were so textured in black and white. Immediately you feel very protective of Hugo, even if he is a thief because you know he is alone in the world. My heart goes out to him because he lost his father to a fire, all because of a robot. No wonder the boy was obsessed with drawing in the notebook and stashing the robot in his wall cave. As soon as the shop keeper saw the notebook, I knew he was much more involved in the story than it was saying. He was entirely preoccupied with Hugo's ability to put things together, just as he later does with the robot. At first, I was annoyed with the god daughter. She was meddling and trying to get Hugo in trouble, but they were able to connect with one another, having both lost their families. I loved that the illustrations were done in pencil because it was just like the sketches drawn by Hugo in his notebooks. It was great how the concept of the automaton is real, and that they were used by magicians in the early 1900's. Also, the movies that were used in the book and even Georges Méliès are actually documented and real. The book provides twists and turns, but allows for Hugo and Georges to find their place after years of being lost.

Teaching Ideas: Hugo Cabret is a great website that provides great links and details about the making of the book. The automaton and early movies are great inventions to talk to students about.

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