"The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris. Here you will meet a boy named Hugo Cabret, who once, long ago, discovered a mysterious drawing that changed his life forever."
So begins The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. In the author's own words, it is "a 550 page novel in words and pictures. But unlike most novels, the images in my new book don't just illustrate the story; they help tell it." He goes on to say that he has created "something that is not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."
I've known about this book for a few years and was reminded of it again when I saw that my library owned the movie. I rented the movie and book on the same day and put both away. The book is a bit daunting looking and I was sure I would end up seeing the movie before reading the book. Yesterday I was talking to my friend Rachel about our Goodreads book challenge and mentioned that it was on my "to-read" list still. Having just finished Phantom on the Bookshelves, I was suffering a little bit of a book-hangover and wasn't quite sure what I wanted to read next. Nothing too emotionally demanding, nothing too scholarly. Young Adult book? Perfection.
I took it to dinner with me and started it while I was waiting for my food to heat up in the microwave. I read the first page, where the quote above is from, while standing up. As soon as I got through the first page, it turned into about 40 pages of illustration that not only followed what was on that first page of text (the introduction of Hugo Cabret) but continued telling the story wordlessly. There's only so much you can take in when you are standing, waiting by the microwave as I was. So as soon as my timer beeped I was sitting at the table, warmed food mostly ignored, engrossed in the drawings that were telling me a story. I think I finally took a breath when I got to the next installment of text.
I worked my way through over 300 pages in one sitting. I hazard a guess that at least 50% of those pages were illustrations, but that didn't matter. Black and white though they were, they were riveting and thought provoking. As I read it I thought, "I would love to buy this for my niece (who is just 13 weeks old) and my girls (that I babysit, 8 & 6) and their brother (2) and..." Seriously, this is a book that all ages can enjoy.
I love that it does incorporate illustrations and pictures into the story. They aren't just to help the story (as in the case of "Why We Broke Up); rather, they are part OF the story. And I love that.
And the movie? I can't WAIT to see it now!