Monday, May 31, 2010

Review #73: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Dad:  Today we are looking at one of my favorite books in the world.
Gracie (age 9):  The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Dad:  It's by Brian Selznick.
Gracie:  No it's not -- It's by Professor H. Alcofrisbas.
Dad:  Well, that's what the introduction claims.  But according to the cover, it's by Brian Selznick.
Gracie:  Just the cover is written by Brian Selznick.
Isaac (age 11):  Brian Selznick is really creative.
Dad:  Before we discuss the story, tell us about the physical book itself...
Isaac:  I've never seen another book like this.
Lily (age 7):  It's, like.... big.
Isaac:  It's huge.  It's giant.
Gracie: (grabbing a ruler)  It's three inches thick.
Dad:  Thanks for measuring it for us.
Isaac:  Giant.  It's like a 500 page book.
Dad:  Should that scare readers away?  What if they think, "That book is honking huge!"
Gracie:  It's honking easy to read.  We read it in two days.
Lily:  It has tons of pictures.
Dad:  So how about the opposite concern...  If it has lots of pictures, might people think it's only for younger readers?
Gracie:  No.  It's a chapter book for pete's sake.  And big people like pictures too.
Dad:  So this is a book for everyone!
Gracie:  The pictures are very very very very very important to the story.
Lily:  They are black and white like in an old movie.
Isaac:  And the pictures are like a movie itself... the way the pictures zoom in and zoom out, and the angles they show.
Gracie:  The pictures help tell the story.
Isaac:  The words stop, and the author starts telling the story in pictures.  Then the pictures stop, and he starts doing it in words again.
Lily:  Sometimes when it got to an exciting part at the end of the page, we were like "Oo! Where is the picture!"
Dad:  You knew!  When things got exciting, you knew pictures were sure to come!
Lily:  This book is the opposite of boring.  It is wonderful, and glorious, and exciting, and adventurous!
Isaac:  It's a really good mystery book.
Lily:  And there was a big chase!
Gracie:  "Every good story has a chase."  That's what Hugo said.
Dad:  The mysteries that unfold throughout the story are part of the fun.  Can we talk about the story without giving away any surprises?
Gracie:  That's kind of hard to do.  But I guess we've done it before.
Dad:  So, tell us about the story...
Isaac:  It takes place in 1930.  I don't think it takes place in America.  Is it in Italy?
Lily:  Africa?
Dad:  No.  It takes place in France.
Isaac:  Oh.  I was close.  Italy and France are... alike.
Dad:  And tell us about Hugo...
Isaac:  Hugo is an orphan.  He lived with his uncle who fixed the clocks at a train station, and Hugo was his apprentice.
Gracie:  He fixes the clocks from inside the walls.
Lily:  And he lives in a wall.  That would be awesome.
Isaac:  Then Hugo's uncle disappears.  If the station master had found out, he would have taken Hugo and put him in the orphanage.  So Hugo keeps fixing the clocks himself so no one will know.
Gracie:  Everyone calls Hugo a thief.
Dad:  Why do they call him a thief?
Gracie:  Because he is one.  He steals everything.  Milk.  Croissants.  Cookies.  Toys.  Actually, I don't think he's evil -- he needs the food to survive.  And he just takes the toys so he can re-build an automaton because he thinks there is a secret message from his father that will save his life.
Lily:  An automaton is a robot that moves exactly like a human.  Hugo was trying to fix it.  He stole wind up toys so he could take them apart and fix the automaton with their little parts.  There was a pen in the automaton's hand, and Hugo thought it would write a message.  But the automaton actually made--
Isaac:  Don't tell!
Lily:  Awwwwwww....
Isaac:  That's one of the surprises.
Dad:  Who are some of the other characters.  Who does Hugo meet?
Lily:  A little girl named...  What's her name again?
Gracie:  Isabelle.
Lily:  She's beautiful.  Hugo stole a key from her.  So that's another thing he steals!  He's evil!
Dad:  And Isabelle is related to whom?
Lily:  That guy who works at the toy shop.
Dad:  There's a lot of mystery around that old man.
Gracie:  Papa Georges.
Isaac:  He makes little crank-up mice and toys.  He's really grumpy about stuff.
Gracie:  He goes crazy.  He freaks.
Lily:  He found this chest filled with papers.  And when he saw the papers he was like, "No No NO NOO!" and he started ripping them apart.
Gracie:  He freaked out and muttered things like, "I'm a broken thimble...  an unwound watch...  a knotted shoelace...  a bad shirt..."
Dad:  A bad shirt???
Gracie:  "...I'm an ugly baby..."
Dad:  Now you're making stuff up.
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!
Dad:  Did the book make you care about the characters?
Gracie:  I got sad when Hugo smashed his fingers.  And I got sad when Isabella smashed her foot.  And I got sad when the old man smashed his cabinet.  And I got sad when the automaton got smashed!
Isaac:  There's a lot of smashing in this book.
Dad:  The book had quite a few reoccurring motifs, didn't it.
Gracie:  What-the-cabbage is a motif?
Dad:  A motif is a story element that keeps reappearing.
Isaac:  You mean like: "Something caught his eye."
Dad:  No... that's just a writing tic the author probably wasn't aware he had.
Isaac:  The next time we read this book, we should count how many times he writes "Caught his eye."
Dad:  I never would have noticed that, but you guys sure did.
Isaac:  I didn't notice until Gracie mentioned it, then I kept hearing it over and over.
Dad:  But a motif is like a repeating theme or symbol.  Let's go around and see how many reoccurring themes from the book we can name.  If you get stumped you're out.  I'll start:  Trains.
Gracie:  Clocks.
Isaac:  Stealing.
Lily:  Ummmm...
Gracie:  She's out.
Lily:  I'm just thinking!
Isaac:  Fixing broken things.
Gracie:  Gears and machines.
Lily:  Has anyone mentioned clocks yet?
Gracie:  Yes.
Lily:  The moon.
Dad: Greek myths.
Lily:  Eyes.
Gracie:  Movies.  Old movies.
Dad:  Good list!  Now one last thing before we wrap up...  Speaking of old movies, the ones mentioned in this book are actual movies from film history.
Lily:  Like the guy hanging from the clock.
Dad:  Yeah, Harold Lloyd!  We later watched him on YouTube.  What did you guys think of Harold Lloyd?
Isaac:  Funny!
Lily:  He climbed up a building like boop, boop, boop, then he fell and hanged on a clock!
Isaac:  We watched another movie on the internet from the book too.  We saw "Trip to the Moon."
Dad:  The man in the moon gets a rocket in his eye... it's a pretty famous old movie.
Isaac:  We even found movies about automatons on the internet.  They are actually really cool.
Gracie:  The internet rocks.

trip to the moon, by Lily

Hugo and Isabelle, by Gracie

And lastly, Isaac built a cool automaton out of legos!  Although not able to move on its own, all the joints (neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, knuckles) do indeed twist and swivel and bend just like human joints.  It's rather lifelike and eerie the way it moves!

Author/Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Published, 2007: Scholastic
Like it? Find it


Heidi Noel said...

I love this book. It is so beautiful and unexpected. I didn't even think of looking up the movies on the internet. I remember some from my film classes, though.

Playing by the book said...

I think I might just have found the next book to read to my eldest! And I love Isaac's automaton, although I can never get my head around the American "legos" - in the UK we NEVER put a(n) "s" on LEGO :-)

Unknown said...

This books sounds wonderful. I love the layout of your piece. It was really fun to read.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful post! Delightfully told, and entertaining to boot!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

I agree Gracie, the internet does rock...

Brimful Curiosities said...

I ordered this book for the public library I worked in before my son was born but never got around to reading it myself. Sounds like a fun one to share with the family. The LEGO creation is incredible.

Melissa Taylor said...

I just found your blog and love how you've included the conversation between you and your kids - it's so engaging, I couldn't stop reading.

Can't wait to read more..


Boysnberries' Brambles said...

Joel was given this book for Christmas and we love it!!!

Heidi Noel said...

Um, today is Monday, right? Vacation?

Z-Kids said...

Blogger has been down since yesterday evening. It appears to be finally working again! New post to come soon :)
Thanks! It's great to know we are missed if our Monday morning post is absent!

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Very fun review :o) Love that everyone has a part in the reviews and love the artistic creations too!

Blessings & Aloha!

Anonymous said...

"What-the-cabbage is a motif?" Are you guys watchers of Adventure Time?! Aha, sometimes I wish you would review things other than books (well, you've done movies a time or two...)-- but then I remember how many books are in your house, and decide that maybe it'd just be better if you kept on with the written word after all!

I'm definitely going to have to check this book out, in any case. Ciao!

lissie said...

I just read this book. It's really cool. I decided to read it because of this review. Thanks for all your reviews!