31 December 2007
Harry Potter got all the attention, but The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick is the title that, in my opinion, has revolutionized not just books, but the process of reading itself. Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book, is of a similar opinion, and his word counts for a lot more than mine. I grabbed "Invention" to investigate the hype (for it came with plenty) and was simply blown away by its scope, ambition, and achievement. It tells the story of Hugo Cabret, an orphan, who has been secretly keeping the clocks of a French railway station running on time since the disappearance of his uncle, the current clock-keeper. His most prized possession is a diary of drawings which he found among his dad's possessions when he died. Hugo's interest in the drawings, which feature unbelievable automatons, leads him to a toymaker with a background shrouded in mystery. The book, as well as the story, is steeped in the history of the early days of motion pictures. I know quite a bit about the early history of film (thanks to all those Klaus classes,) so reading a story which deals with the subject was fun in and of itself. But what truly amazed me as I read, was how my brain adjusted to the switch between text and images, to the extent that I was learning a new way of reading while I read. As the book progressed I could predict whether each turn of the page would reveal text or image, because I was so completely a part of the flow of the story. When I closed the cover, I was almost stunned by the experience, in the same way that I was stunned as a first grader when I realized that the print on a page finally made sense. Truly, an outstanding book.