A couple of years ago, one of the members of my book club chose The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik as that month’s book.
After checking it out from the library, I was stunned. The book was giant, at 533 pages, and it was a children’s book. The size of it concerned me because 1. I primarily read at night so can only get through a few pages before falling asleep and dropping the book on my head…that’s a heavy book. And 2. Only getting through a few pages a night meant it would take longer to get through…time I didn’t have. I’m always reading something, but I’m not terribly quick about it (see #1). Also, I read so many children’s books that I look forward to the grown up books we read for book club.
After learning a bit more about the book, I came up with a plan…I decided to use it as a read-aloud in my classroom. Everyday, right before dismissal, I read a novel of some kind aloud to my class. This plan let me kill two birds with one stone. It turned out to be a brilliant plan. My class that year loved it. I also loved it, in fact it is at the top of my “Most Loved Children’s Books” list as well as my “Most Loved Grown Up Books” list. The book is wonderful.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a cross between and picture book and novel. About half of it is pictures. Pictures is actually an understatement. The drawings in the book are incredible and take on a big part in telling the story.
This is the only novel that has been honored with the Caldecott Medal – a picture book award.
It takes place in Paris in the early 1900s. Based on historical facts about Georges Melies, an early filmmaker, magician, artist, inventor, and maker of automata.
The story centers around an orphan boy named Hugo who “discovers” Georges Melies in a toy booth at the train station.
Since the first time reading it, I have made the book a yearly read-aloud in my classroom. I very much enjoy watching the students become completely engulfed in the story. They beg for me to start reading it earlier in the day and groan when the chapter ends, and it’s time to go home. And after finishing the book each year, the kids ask me to “borrow” it. This year, I even had a to make a list of who wanted to see it so everyone has a turn.
The reading level is too difficult for most of the students – it’s written at a 4th-5th grade level - but they want to just hold it and look at the pictures. I love that.
When the movie Hugo came out this past winter, I looked forward to seeing it. A friend and I went to the theatre, but the projection equipment broke so we had to get our money back. We never made it to the theatre again. The movie came out on DVD a couple of weeks ago. Last night I had a chance to watch it. It was a very nice movie. I don’t watch movies very well at home because I get distracted with other things to do, but I got through it while working on some school work and mostly paying attention. As with most movies that come from books, I am never terribly impressed. The books are always so much more than the movie can hope to be. However, Hugo is a very beautiful movie, and fairly true to the story.
A few of the students in my class have also had a chance to see the movie, but the others are dying to. Just this week, the class earned a marble party for good behavior. They chose to watch Hugo as their reward. This Friday, I’ll pop them some popcorn, and we will turn the classroom into a theatre for the afternoon. I hope they enjoy it as much as they did the book.
Have you read the book? Seen the movie? If not, the book is a must read!