Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Rating: ** (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B")
Audience: 3rd grade through middle school
The best part of reading as a family may not be sharing your favorites with your kids. It may well be what your kids share with you as their favorites!
Do you realize what a privilege that is? If we want our kids to take our suggestions, we'd better be willing to take some of theirs. When we do, we can find some real gems. My 5th grade daughter had been asking me for 2 years to read this book and I'm glad I finally took a Sunday afternoon to do so.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret takes a story about an unusual artifact (a 19th century automaton - pronounced "a-TOM-a-ton") and explores it in an unusual, graphic writing style. The book won a well-deserved Caldecott Medal for its rich, etching-like illustrations. Though 500 pages in length, it is a short read as illustrations comprise about two-thirds of the book. It defies description because the remarkable topic is combined with a storyline told partly in prose and partly in picture.
Set in the 1930s, Hugo is an orphan living in a Paris train station. He secretly maintains all the clocks as a way to salvage his absent uncle's job. When he discovers a project his deceased father had been working on, Hugo hopes to unlock a special message from his parent. The tension builds as Hugo must avoid discovery by the Station Inspector, appease the resident toymaker, keep all the clocks wound, and complete his father's restoration project.
Now, about that project. The best part for me in this clever story was learning that "primitive," clockworks robots known as automatons did (and do) in fact exist!