Pragmatic Mom

February 3, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My sister sent me this massive tome for my youngest’s third birthday.  I was surprised; he can’t read yet and this book can rival a thick Harry Potter.  But my sister said, “No, no…it’s supposed to be this really cool book that is mostly illustrations.”  I glanced through it and it sat on the back burner bookshelf.

I took it out a few months ago, and it sat on my bedside table for another two months.  The sheer weight of the book was daunting.  Finally, I was in a rush to pack up for my jam-packed Tuesdays when I drive my kids around dropping off one to gymnastics then sprinting to the flute lesson…but secretly I love this day.  The flute lesson is a little island of quiet time; 30 minutes to read a book (which is usually why I blog on a book review on Tuesdays).  So, I grabbed this book because I was in a rush and my pile was down to two books, and what a pleasure it was to read this book!

I call The Invention of Hugo Cabret a children’s literature version of The Phantom of the Opera.  They are both set in Paris; Hugo is set around 1931.  They both sneak around in hidden canals and passageways that they know like that back of their hand.  And They both have deep, dark secrets from the past.  Hugo is almost a book within a book.  The book IS actually mostly illustrations (284!) , and much like the picture books Flotsam or Tuesday by David Weisner, the illustrations tell their own story.  There is also the story which is a fair amount of text, but part of it is broken up by pages and pages of illustrations and some of the story pages have only a scant paragraph.

The story of Hugo, itself, is a mystery that unwinds, layer by layer, into a deeply interconnecting and interesting story weaving the history of motion pictures with themes of magic, believing, and the power of friendships.  It’s really a lovely and riveting story.

The sweet spot for this book would be 3-5th graders, particularly reluctant boy readers.  Don’t let the thickness of the book deter your reader and this might be a perfect story to read together for reluctant readers.  This book won a slew of awards including Finalist for the National Book Award.

To purchase, please click on the image of the book to buy at  Thank you!

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