The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian

I remember distinctly sleepwalking through my elementary school library, till I was awakened by a strange tale set in France. I’d been fascinated with the play between illustration and the written word for a long time by then. I devoured comic books and reading material beyond my grade level. It’s feed into my obsession with movies, further enabled by the advent of Netflix, presently.

So image my suprise when a book came along that wasn’t quite a book, wasn’t quite a picture book or graphic novel, and couldn’t be placed in a distinct category. I’ll never forget when our school librarian dutifully tried to explain the Dewey decimal system, and remarked she didn’t know where this book should be placed.

And, I loved that. I still love that about this book, operating in a liminal space, thriving off of imagination not constrained by its context. For those who don’t know the story, it’s described as such on the website:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick ORPHAN, CLOCK KEEPER, AND THIEF, twelve-year-old 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 girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train 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 all come together…in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

This 526-page book is told in both words and pictures. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things. Each picture (there are nearly three hundred pages of pictures!) takes up an entire double page spread, and the story moves forward because you turn the pages to see the next moment unfold in front of you.

Have you ever been so enthralled by a work it’s inspired you to this day? That’s what this book did for me when I was young. Moving forward with my own work, and my penchant for mixing illustrations with writing, I thought it would make sense to revisit why I have such a strong urge to do so.

As Always,

– E. O. Smith

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