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- DOODLER171 - In this book, Brian Selznick does an outstanding job capturing each and every emotion within this book and turning it into the awe-striking illustration that just adds to the buildup of suspense created within every page. As a young boy, Hugo Cabret spends most of his young childhood with his beloved father learning, loving and cherishing each and every moment they share together; which mostly involves tinkering with the many parts and pieces his father saves from his studies at the museum. After his father passes in a perilous fire incident, Hugo is then sent off to live with his only relative left, his uncle, who teaches him the ways of life setting and living in the clocks of a busy Paris train station. As his uncle is a strong alcoholic, Hugo is basically orphaned, for his uncle disappears every night to soon be never seen again. Now, without an adult guardian for supervision, Hugo everyday risks being caught and sent away to an orphanage in his fight to find out the true use for the automaton his father left behind, as well as why everybody else is so caught up in trying to stop him, and possibly take the last piece of his father that Hugo has left to hold close to his heart...
Starred review from January 1, 2007
Here is a true masterpiece—an artful blending of narrative, illustration and cinematic technique, for a story as tantalizing as it is touching.
Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo lives in the walls of a Paris train station at the turn of the 20th century, where he tends to the clocks and filches what he needs to survive. Hugo's recently deceased father, a clockmaker, worked in a museum where he discovered an automaton: a human-like figure seated at a desk, pen in hand, as if ready to deliver a message. After his father showed Hugo the robot, the boy became just as obsessed with getting the automaton to function as his father had been, and the man gave his son one of the notebooks he used to record the automaton's inner workings. The plot grows as intricate as the robot's gears and mechanisms: Hugo's father dies in a fire at the museum; Hugo winds up living in the train station, which brings him together with a mysterious toymaker who runs a booth there, and the boy reclaims the automaton, to which the toymaker also has a connection.
To Selznick's credit, the coincidences all feel carefully orchestrated; epiphany after epiphany occurs before the book comes to its sumptuous, glorious end. Selznick hints at the toymaker's hidden identity (inspired by an actual historical figure in the film industry, Georges Méliès) through impressive use of meticulous charcoal drawings that grow or shrink against black backdrops, in pages-long sequences. They display the same item in increasingly tight focus or pan across scenes the way a camera might. The plot ultimately has much to do with the history of the movies, and Selznick's genius lies in his expert use of such a visual style to spotlight the role of this highly visual media. A standout achievement. Ages 9-12.
Starred review from March 1, 2007
Gr 4-9-With characteristic intelligence, exquisite images, and a breathtaking design, Selznick shatters conventions related to the art of bookmaking in this magical mystery set in 1930s Paris. He employs wordless sequential pictures and distinct pages of text to let the cinematic story unfold, and the artwork, rendered in pencil and bordered in black, contains elements of a flip book, a graphic novel, and film. It opens with a small square depicting a full moon centered on a black spread. As readers flip the pages, the image grows and the moon recedes. A boy on the run slips through a grate to take refuge inside the walls of a train stationhome for this orphaned, apprentice clock keeper. As Hugo seeks to accomplish his mission, his life intersects with a cantankerous toyshop owner and a feisty girl who won't be ignored. Each character possesses secrets and something of great value to the other. With deft foreshadowing, sensitively wrought characters, and heart-pounding suspense, the author engineers the elements of his complex plot: speeding trains, clocks, footsteps, dreams, and moviesespecially those by Georges Mé liè s, the French pioneer of science-fiction cinema. Movie stills are cleverly interspersed. Selznick's art ranges from evocative, shadowy spreads of Parisian streets to penetrating character close-ups. Leaving much to ponder about loss, time, family, and the creative impulse, the book closes with a waning moon, a diminishing square, and informative credits. This is a masterful narrative that readers can literally manipulate."Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library"
Copyright 2007 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
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