Monday, January 19, 2009

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

the invention of hugo cabret (with newbery medal shield)

Written by Brian Selznick, this magnificent book contains exactly one hundred and fifty-eight different pictures and twenty-six thousand one hundred and fifty-nine words.

It won the 2008
Caldecott Medal, the first considered novel to do so.

I use the word "considered" as it is (described in the author's own words): "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."

A novel idea.

In this book, pictures and text perform in turn to enact the story, which takes place in Paris, 1931. Selznick's illustrations are a feast to the eye: elegant pencil strokes combine with meticulous cross-hatching to render the setting in mysterious and hauntingly beautiful sketches. They are gorgeous.

But of the story... oh, what shall I say? I do not want to spoil the book for anyone. Well, let me say this: the plot's subject matter has as much to do with the illustrations as the illustrations have to do with the story. Despite the seeming arbitrariness of the images produced amidst the text, the whole piece reads seamlessly. And in the end, everything in the story ties together firmly into a coherent and perfect whole.

As a children's book, as a work of art: it has no precedent.

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