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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Brian Selznick

School Library Journal : Gr 3–6—Brian Selznick's atmospheric story (Scholastic, 2007) is set in Paris in 1931. Hugo Cabret is an orphan; his father, a clockmaker, has recently died in a fire and the boy lives with his alcoholic Uncle Claude, working as his apprentice clock keeper in a bustling train station. When Hugo's uncle fails to return after a three-day absence, the boy decides it's his chance to escape the man's harsh treatment. But Hugo has nowhere to go and, after wandering the city, returns to his uncle's rooms determined to fix a mechanical figure—an automaton—that his father was restoring when he died. Hugo is convinced it will "save his life"—the figure holds a pen, and the boy believes that if he can get it working again, it will deliver a message from his father. This is just the bare outline of this multilayered story, inspired by and with references to early (French) cinema and filmmaker George Méliès, magic and magicians, and mechanical objects. Jeff Woodman's reading of the descriptive passages effectively sets the story's suspenseful tone. The book's many pages of pictorial narrative translate in the audio version into sound sequences that successfully employ the techniques of old radio plays (train whistles, footsteps reverberating through station passages, etc.). The accompanying DVD, hosted by Selznick and packed with information and images from the book, will enrich the listening experience.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

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