May 25, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Orphan Hugo Cabret lives in a wall. His secret home is etched out in the crevices of a busy Paris train station. Part-time clock keeper, part-time thief, he leads a life of quiet routine until he gets involved with an eccentric, bookish young girl and an angry old man who runs a toy booth in the station. The Invention of Hugo Cabret unfolds its cryptic, magical story in a format that blends elements of picture book, novel, graphic novel, and film. Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick has fashioned an intricate puzzle story that binds the reader like a mesmerist's spell.

I've seen The Invention of Hugo Cabret lots of times before I got my own copy. When I first saw it, I was simply entranced by the intricacy of the gears on the cover and after flipping through it, the illustrations and the amount of details each had just made me want it more.

I was at National Bookstore, looking for a decent book in the Below 100 Sale bunch when I spotted a hardbound version of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It seemed to be too good to be true! I was so excited to buy it but my sister pointed out that the price was hardly understandable since it looked like it had been scratched by a chicken or something. It's a good thing that we asked the cashier if it was really for P99 because it turned out it wasn't! It was for around a thousand pesos ($20)! Long story short, I didn't buy it, but I did get lucky and found it on sale while I was out buying a gift for a friend of mine, and this time, I only paid P99 for it. 

It tells the story of a young boy by the name of Hugo Cabret. Hugo is an orphan, clock keeper and thief. He lives a life of secrets and isolation inside a wall in a train station. His involvement with a peculiar girl and the owner of the toy booth from which he has pilfered from makes up the enchanting tale that weaves horology, magic, family and film together.

What can I say about this book? Brian Selznick, the author, always goes off about how it's not a novel, not a graphic novel either but a mixture of words, illustrations and screencaps. Reading it, made me feel like I was in a movie of some sort and it was such a pleasant experience even though it didn't take me long to finish it. Turning one page filled with drawings after another gives the feeling of watching a movie in which you can control the speed to savor and study the scene or whatever.

Personally, I think that Hugo and Isabelle together is what made this book more awesome. Hugo is such a brave and sadly lost kid that has wormed his way in my heart with his sneaky ways. Isabelle on the other hand, is a favorite of mine because of the shallow reason that she reads. The drawings of Isabelle remind me so much of Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional. Th fact that they're both dreamers, Hugo with his automaton and Isabelle with her photography, is just plain adorable. 

I also loved how a lot of topics were touched and/or scrutinized in this wonderful book. You've got France in the 1930's as the backdrop of the story, a peek inside a horologists lifestyle and how the gears and clockwork can affect someone's thinking, Georges Méliès life, the train accident in Gare Montparnasse and magic. 

A lovely quote from the book:

"I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and types of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason, too. " 
-Hugo Cabret, p.378 The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret just had me wrapped around its literary finger from the first page down to the last.

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