My children have had this book on their shelves for years (a gift from the most literary Uncle Kevin) and I've been hearing about the book since I started blogging. Part storybook, part graphic novel, even part flip-book maybe. Why on earth I've never read it baffles me. Maybe it was the size of the book, which is about four inches thick? The kids both told me I could read it in two hours, so I grabbed it for Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon awhile back, and was exactly what I needed...a charming escape into a world of magic, movies and the innocence of youth.
Synopsis: Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives secretly in a train station's clock tower in France. His mother and father are dead, and his uncle, the clock keeper, disappeared months ago. Hugo understands that he must keep up appearances and maintain the clocks so the authorities don't discover his lack of parental supervision and send him to an orphanage. This is no problem, though, because he has a gift with mechanical things.
Hugo's primary obsession is with an old automaton, which is father rescued from an old museum years ago. The automaton, once fixed, should be able to draw something, and once Hugo figures out what that something is, he thinks it might just change his life.
And it does, in ways he never suspects. Suddenly he is involved with a cranky old shopkeeper, a strange young girl, a mysterious drawing, a secret key, and the legacy of Georges Milies, a magician and famous filmmaker at the turn of the century.
Writer, illustrator and Caldecott winner Selznick was inspired to create the story of Hugo Cabret by two influences. First was the true story of Georges Milies. Milies was a visionary when it came to making wonderful and strange movies, like "A Trip to the Moon" (shown below), made in 1902 and was the first science fiction movie ever produced.
Selznick was also fascinated with automata, which were constructed by using thousands of tiny clockwork parts to make a figure move automatically, performing any number of complicated maneuvers like dancing or drawing pictures. Watching an automaton in action is mind-blowing. No wonder Selznick's imagination went wild:
My thoughts: Do I REALLY need to tell you what I thought? Selznick has created what I could consider the perfect book. It incorporates over three hundred gorgeous illustrations, and a magical story. Then there is the history! There is the birth of film with the works of Georges Milies and the love of old movies in general. There is the magic of automata. My brain was buzzing while I was reading this. I decided that if I get rich someday, I'm buying myself an automaton. I sat and watched video after video of them on Youtube. To heck with the moving and talking Presidents over at Disney's Epcot, I want one of these guys.
And it gets better. On November 23, 2011, there will be a movie directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Johnny Depp, Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lee. My heart is coming out of my chest. I could cry I'm so excited.
So set aside a couple of hours for yourself, and read this now. You will not be disappointed.
5 out of 5 stars