Saturday, January 24, 2009

Simply an Amazing Book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Last week I finished reading a book to my class that very much fascinated my fourth grade students. It was the first time that I have read "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" to a class even though I enjoyed reading it myself over a year ago. The Author, Brian Selznick, is also an illustrator and although this book looks daunting at over 500 pages, it is not a difficult read because the story is often told through the wonderful drawings that can sometimes go on, page after page.

"The Invention of Hugo Cabret" is a magical book that transports the reader to Paris in the early part of the 20th century. We meet a boy named Hugo who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. Hugo has many secrets as he tends to the job of keeping the clocks in the train station accurate. His biggest secret is a mysterious machine (an automaton) that he is trying to fix. He steals toy parts from a toy store to fix his machine and is caught by the cranky owner. He also meets a young girl that he has a hard time trusting. This mysteries in this story that need to be solved and how the characters are connected and blend together in a wonderful way captured my classes attention so much that they did not like it when I paused in my reading each day.

In a world where our children are enamored by technology, they are brought back to a similar time in history, when technology was in the process of producing amazing magic. Without giving away too much of the story it does involve a type of sophisticated machine called an automaton. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has one such automaton and you can view it here:

The book also has a "real" historic character in it: Georges Melies, a very early filmmaker. Upon reading the book, children learn a little bit about the history and the magic of filmmaking. Here is a video of Georges Melies "A Trip to the Moon" a movie that plays an important role in the book.

You can find many more of Georges Milies' videos on Youtube.

Here is an entertaining video that explains about Georges Milies and his use of special effects in making his films. It also explains how you can do your own special effects with a video camera. While we are dazzled by today's special effects that can make just about anything possible and real, it is interesting to see how this technology started.

Here author Brian Selznick explains his book:

This is a great book and my students continue to enjoy it as they love toting such a big book around after taking it out of the library. Kids will only do this with books that they really love. Otherwise, they would be carrying dictionaries everywhere!

Some intreresting discussion questions for the book can be found at One-Minute Book Reviews.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is there a teacher's guide that you know of for this book? What types of activities did you do with the students?