here at the milinovich house, we read almost every night before bed, and are always looking for new and engaging stories to help us explore the world, learn new things, laugh, and feel deeply. as a parent, i want to instill in my children a love of reading that will last for them into their adulthood, while at the same time helping with their development and modeling the importance of reading. i tend to read dramatically, so they can hear the voices of the characters and really feel that they are meeting new people when they read. plus, i love doing it, so it works out well.
recently we had borrowed a huge book (533 pages!) from the library, and thought we'd delve into it. it is called "the invention of hugo cabret" by brian selznick, and is probably better known to many as "hugo" which was the name of the movie adaptation by spielberg and martin scorcese. more on the movie in a moment. first, the book.
we loved this book. we couldn't get enough. jackson would beg for more chapters before bed, and i would often oblige because i didn't want to stop reading. it is part children's story, and part graphic novel, filled with dozens of gorgeous pencil drawings that don't just illustrate the story, but are actually part of the telling of the story. it is a unique style, and one that really captured the attention of my children. there are whole sections of narrative, maybe 12 to 16 pages, that are simply told by they drawings. there is no corresponding text. when the chapter resumes, it doesn't explain the illustrations, it just continues where they left off. pretty cool.
the book tells the story of hugo cabret, an orphan in france, who finds himself in a very unusual situation, and tells the story of how he tries to receive a message that his father may have left him before he died. from there, the story takes an interesting twist and includes some wonderfully romanticized visions of 19th century technology (what is now known as steam punk), and the early days of cinema. it is a ride you cannot expect to take, unless you've seen the movie, and even then it will surprise you. one of the main characters in the book, even though he never talks, is an automaton, or mechanical man composed of clockworks, who promises to write a message if hugo could only fix him up properly and find the key to turn the gears. what ensues is pure adventure, with friendship, chase scenes, suspense, and redemption all significant ingredients. in short, it is a great story, and i am so glad we read it.
after we finished the book, we rushed down to the redbox and rented the movie. although i would have to say the book was overall the better experience, we thoroughly enjoyed the movie. except for maybe caedmon. i think it may have been a bit too long for his tastes (126 minutes), but the rest of us were locked in. the story is very engaging on the screen, partly because the story is so strong, and partly because it is visually stunning. the colors and costumes, the sets, everything feels warm and french and romantic, if not exactly real. the actors do a great job (which is sometimes a problem with child actors), and the adaptations for the screen were a bit surprising to me at times, but completely understandable, for the telling of the story visually. it was a story without adult innuendo or modern pop culture references, and for that, it was refreshing. while it seems like a hard sell in the world of children's entertainment today (a story about a 1930's french orphan who is trying to rebuild an old metal machine in hopes of receiving a message from his deceased father, while also learning about georges melies and the history of early cinema), it works and is a fantastic balance to some of the other children's movies we've seen.