“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick (2007)
I was first introduced to this book in 2007, the year it was published, by Helen Sykes, at the ETA Conference. She had received an advance copy and thought it was one of the most interesting books she had come across in a long time. Part picture book, part novel, not quite a graphic novel, definitely not just a children’s book – it is impossible to place this book in just one style or genre.
At the time, I looked at about 20 of its pages, I wrote down the title, I vowed to find it and buy it.
And then, it was 2013 and time to buy some new books for school for a program I had been tinkering with – a mash up of some ideas of my own and the work of Leigh, a colleague from my Picton days. I asked everyone I knew, including my book rep, to recommend graphic novels. I scoured the Board of Studies recommended texts list. The same name kept on coming up – “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”. So it was an easy choice, really, to buy the book at last that I had meant to buy so many years ago. But in buying it I broke one of my own cardinal rules – I bought 30 copies of a book I hadn’t read! That’s right, there are 30 beautiful brand new copies sitting in the book room at school, waiting patiently for the holidays to end and for the beginning of the delivery of the graphic novels unit to year 8. Well, actually, I lie. There are 28 copies at school, then there is the copy beside me, and a copy that my colleague, Emma took home to read in the holidays, like me.
Let me start by telling you that there is something undeniably satisfying about reading a 534 page book in one sitting! And what a beautiful book it is. It tells the story of a boy who lives in a railway station and tends to all the clocks there. It also tells the story of a man who owns a toy shop and a girl who loves movies. It is a beautiful, whimsical, fairytale kind of a book. The illustrations are captivating, the use of the page in so many different ways is an adventure. It is a book of magic, a book of movies, a book of adventure and hope.
The night after reading it, we watched the film, ‘Hugo’. Like my favourite t-shirt says, “the book was better”.
Yes… you really must read this book.