Sleznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Hugo Cabret is an orphan living in a train station in Paris. That information alone has its own fascination. Written for children, the book includes page after page of beautiful drawings -- an interesting combination of narrative and picture book.
My favorite parts have to do with Selznick's symbolic emphasis on eyes and the way he connects those elements in his drawings to plot elements in a subtle manner. The story is a mixture of fact and fiction, and I liked that as well. I liked the play on words in the title. Automatons , early movies, and clocks all fascinate me....
I was not, however, as captivated as many readers have been and thought the narrative much less artistic than the drawings. All the elements of mystery are here, but the textual characterization and the plot never have the effect of other great children's novels. The writing and dialogue seem stilted.
This does not mean that I didn't enjoy this book. I did. Actually, quite a lot. There were many elements that I appreciated, but for several reasons, it did not quite live up to what I hoped for when I first heard about it on NPR a year or so ago.
Last summer, I read The Chess Machine which I reviewed here, another mixture of fact and fiction that dealt with magicians and automata. A nice companion book, but written for adults.
A peek at an automaton:
Other reviews: Becky's review ; Maggie's review; Carl's review;
Fiction. Juvenile/Children's Lit. 2007. 533 pages.