Hugo, an orphan living in Paris in the 1930s, is good with building and repairing mechanical things. He devotes himself to repairing a special automaton and many secrets are brought to light by his efforts. The inspiration for the book was a real automaton. In the acknowledgments, Selznick gives this address for watching the original automatons write and draw: http://www.fi.edu/learn/sci-tech/automaton/automaton.php?cts=instrumentation. Pretty cool!
This book is most easily defined as a graphic novel, but it is more a hybrid between a novel and a graphic novel. The drawings have their own pages as do the written parts which read like a traditional story, not like cartoons with speech bubbles. The drawings inform the reader as much as the text. They are not simply illustrations but are a part of the narrative. Reading the book is similar to watching an old silent movie with black and white pictures followed by text. This is fitting since the book explores the work of early movie maker Georges Melies as well as other early films. Original pictures from these early movies are in the book including a picture of the very first film of a train pulling into a station. I can envision this book being very popular with elementary students who are interested in how movies were invented and why people began making them. There is a lot of interactive material available via the web to enhance the reading experience.
The Invention is unique because of the way it presents the story. However, the story was a little slow. I was disappointed with the “secret” that is unveiled. I expected something more dramatic considering all the effort that Hugo gave in order to reveal it. But it is a really cute story and Hugo is a likable character.
Publisher: Scholastic, 2007 Recommended Age: 8 and up
Source: IC Public Library Pages: 533 (284 are drawings)
Rating: 3.5 Stars More on this author at: http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com/index.htm