Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

This book can seem daunting. It's 533 pages long. I had requested it at the library with the intent to read it to my children, but when I picked it up, I had second thoughts. I prefer read-alouds that I can finish in a reasonable amount of time and not lose my voice in the process. But when I flipped through the pages, I saw that it was at least two-thirds illustrations. Drawings, more accurately. And those drawings tell huge portions of the story. It brought back memories of being read to by my elementary school library who I was convinced was really Shel Silverstein. He looked just like him. He would pull pencil erasers out of our ears and read to us the most wonderful books. I remember one of my favorites had no words in it. I've just spent a good amount of time googling, trying to figure out what book it was, but when your search term is "picture books without words" it's not very helpful. Anyway, he could make the most marvelous stories out of these wordless books. We were absolutely entranced. Sure enough, my children were entranced by Hugo Cabret. Written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, it was such fun to read. Hugo lives in the walls of a Paris train station. The story starts out with him searching and stealing for mechanical pieces for his invention. The story sort of works backwards, telling his story in flashbacks; how he came to be living in those walls, where his invention came from and why he's building, or re-building it. But the action also propels forward, at times being so exciting that my oldest was covering her ears, it was so intense. Then she would take the book to bed with her and study the pictures. The pictures move the story at such a heart-pounding rate that you have to stop yourself from skimming through them too fast. The chase scenes especially were exciting. This book ranked up with some of our other favorites, like the E.B. White books, Roald Dahl's "Mathilda" and "James and the Giant Peach", Laura Ingalls Wilder books, C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and of course, Shel Silverstein. Too bad my kids don't have their own Shel to read to them like I did.

Here are some authors who have written (or not written?) many wordless children's books. I'm going to check some out. I copied and pasted them from somewhere else, so pardon the last name, first name. Here's a link to some descriptions of wordless children's books.

Anderson, Lena
Anno, Mitsumasa
Day, Alexandra
DePaola, Tomie
Goodall, John S.
Hoban, Tana
Krahn, Fernando
Lionni, Leo
Mayer, Mercer
Oxenbury, Helen
Spier, Peter
Tafuri, Nancy


  1. I also loved the book from the Tomahawk Elementary library with no words. It was beautifully illustrated in black and white only. A book about a horse, yes? It was called silver something...what a great book.

  2. Me and my kids LOVED this book too! I'm hoping that we get to see some more books like this from this author. It got us so interested and intrigued into this unique machine that I'd never heard of before!