Selznick, Brian. (2007) The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Scholastic Press. ISBN-10: 0439813786 Ages 9-12. Grades 4-7, although fun for the entire family. See full review at www.Litland.com .
Don’t let the size of the book fool you (544 pages), much of this story is shown to you rather than told to you. A seasoned illustrator, Selznick captures the emotions in silent movie style. This is a mystery about an orphaned boy living in Paris in 1931. The book opens with the protagonist attempting to steal, however, the boy eventually gets what he needs through honesty and hard work. Lacking a family, orphan Hugo Cabaret longs to learn more about his father's death in hopes that he may have left him a last message or that he may find some connection to his father. Hugo also attempts to find out the secret of the mechanical man on his own, however, he finds that he cannot do it without the aid of his friends who eventually help him to find closure.
True to its time period, the life of an orphan was one of surviving in any way possible, and often not the most virtuous of lives. However, Selznick’s character clearly means no harm to others, just survival for himself. As the reader is led through the moral dilemmas, remorse and recoursive action, this almost seems as if it were a fable. The adoption by the alcoholic uncle is reminiscent of classic characters such as Cinderella who, living in oppressive situations, remained obedient and hard working. We can imagine the boy’s despair, missing his father as he completed his father’s final project.
The automaton is only a window into the full mystery. Throughout the story, we see how the character’s lives may be interconnected and are pressed to fill in the pieces.
Most of the emotion is felt in the spectacular drawings in this book. Because it is done in the format of a silent movie, this book can easily catch the attention of both early and experienced readers alike. There is no bad language, violent situations, or frightening expos. There is no religious inferences or propogandae nor are there any anti-religious. It is simply a wholesome, family friendly adventure which ultimately displays the importance of remembering those who have passed and accepting the aid of friends who will help us to move forward. It is an absolutely fabulous, breathtaking book!