The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick
It’s not every day that a 500+-page book wins the Caldecott Medal, awarded by the American Library Association “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” But then, this is no ordinary picture book. Brian Selznick’s tour de force follows 12-year-old orphan Hugo, who is living in an apartment within a Paris train station at the turn of the 20th century. He tends to the station clocks and takes what he needs to survive. Before his death, Hugo’s father had been working on restoring an automaton made to resemble a human being’s figure, poised to write a message with pen in hand. Hugo wonders if the message will tell him something about his father, so he determines to complete his father’s mission. In the process, he meets a mysterious toymaker (the toy parts come in handy in attempting to repair the automaton), a girl his own age, and he is also exposed to the films of George Méliès. These threads all come together in surprising and satisfying ways that make clear how essential Selznick’s highly visual form is to the plot. Page after wordless page simulate the cinematic work that creates a parallel to the themes of George Méliès. Selznick’s work will appeal to a wide range of children, from fourth-graders who crave an adventure, to adult aficionados of silent film.