Plot Summary: ORPHAN, CLOCK KEEPER, AND THIEF, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.
I heard Brian Selznick speak at the 2007 Winter SCBWI conference. He told us the entire history of Hugo Cabret – the inspiration, the initial execution, the stumbling blocks, everything. Since I’m a storyteller at heart, this story about a story had me riveted. I was so enthralled that I decided I had to buy his book. So, at our next break, I ran off to the bookstore to pick it up. But I wasn’t the only person with this idea... By the time I’d gotten there, it had already sold out.
This told me two things. 1) Brian Selznick is an amazing speaker, and got so many people interested in his book that we all ran out to buy it. 2) All authors should to learn how to do this.
When I got home from the conference, I picked up the book from my local bookstore, then settled in to read.
Let me first say that I'm not one for picture books. I enjoy reading them to my kids, but I’m not too interested in reading them for myself. However, this book had me enthralled. The artwork is absolutely beautiful (I have a special place in my heart for pencil drawings, anyway), and I spent many an hour just staring at the detail in each picture.
I wasn’t as enthralled with the text. The story, yes. Most definitely. But the writing wasn’t as smooth or polished as I would have liked. If I had read this story without the pictures, I doubt I’d have been so taken with it. But the pictures...more specifically, the way the pictures and the text are combined such that both tell the story is genius! I love how you can’t get the complete story with only the text, and you can’t get the complete story with only the pictures. You need them both. If there were more picture books out there like this, I’d definitely read them.