The Invention of Hugo Cabret

As mentioned earlier, my youngest is hooked on Brian Selznick novels.  So, I went to the library and picked up Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, winner of The Caldecott Medal in 2008.  After she finished reading The Invention of Huge Cabret, she passed it on to me so that we could then watch the movie, Hugo Cabret together.

invention

Again, Selznick’s drawings do not disappoint, but help draw me into the story.  What differs in this book than from Wonderstruck is how the drawings follow the plot versus the pictures creating a storyline of their own.

What I appreciate is how Selznick weaves historical truth into his fiction, so I learned a great deal about early films and specifically about Georges Melies and his collection of automata.

More than anything, though, is my joy at how these novels mesmerize my seven-year-old reader.  In fact, tomorrow I am being sent back to the library in order to find more Selznick novels.

hugo

Although hesitant at first to watch the movie Hugo Cabret due to a friend saying how scary it was when Hugo turns into a robot (spoiler alert: it was a dream), my seven-year-old and I snuggled and watched with much anticipation.  We enjoyed how the majority of the movie followed the book, but felt bad when we realized Etienne never made an appearance.  Personally, I preferred the overall pace of the movie as compared to the book, but as always, I do believe the book was better.

Wonderstruck

My youngest squirt was perusing the books in the library the other day when my oldest squirt suggested she read, Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck.  The oldest’s third grade teacher had read to the class Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and she had thoroughly enjoyed it.  Seeing that his books are novels comprised of words and pictures, I asked how the teacher was able to show a class of 20+ eight and nine-year-olds numerous pictures interspersed with words and maintain control.  She replied, “My teacher used the PolyVision Board.”  Gotta love technology especially when used to enhance literacy . . .

wonderstruck

When my youngest cracked open Wonderstruck, great belly laughs could be heard from the backseat on our way home from the library as she watched the wolves approach closer and closer with every turn of the page.

Seeing the novel had heft at over 600 pages, I was concerned it may have been too much for my seven-year-old until I flipped through the pages and saw the plethora of intricate drawings filled with much emotion.  I figured it was worth a try.

That evening I discovered my youngest in her bed, headband light on her head, reading intently, and repeatedly yelling, “Guess what page I’m on now?!”  Needless to say, my oldest squirt hit it out of the ballpark with her recommendation.  The tough part now was asking little sissy to part with Wonderstruck in order to sleep.

Less than a week later, my youngest had finished Wonderstruck and sent me to the library for Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  The pride she exhibited at having read a novel with such girth prompted me to read Wonderstruck, too.  A cross between a picture book, a graphic novel, and historical fiction, I, too, was hooked with those wolves quickly approaching from page one and intrigued by pictures which did not match the storyline being revealed.  Thus, the pictures represent a story in and of itself separate from the written word until the two join towards the end of the novel.  Complex, mysterious, and informative, Selznick has created a new genre of writing, the graphic novel on steroids, which, I think, will engage even the most reluctant readers.

House Rules

The other day my squirts and I were wandering the halls of the Little Library after playing at the adjacent park.  After my oldest collected a pile of American Girl magazines and my youngest discovered Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck, I found my way to the memoirs as I often do.  Running my finger along the spines of the hardcovers, Rachel Sontag’s House Rules caught my attention.  Pulling the book in question from the shelf and flipping to the back cover, I discovered the author is a fellow Illinoisan, so I was sold.  Leaving the library juggling thirteen items, we were all ready to return home and snuggle in for some quality read time.

houserules

In House Rules, Sontag retells her abusive childhood with vivid imagery and heart wrenching dialogue, words no child should ever have to hear from the mouths of her parents.  Her parents, a medical doctor for a father and a social worker for a mother, chose to emotionally and physically abuse Sontag while abusing Sontag’s sibling via neglect.  Sontag herself has a hard time remembering if her sister was with the family on various outings or instances of abuse, but she verifies the sister’s existence by noting her presence in pictures; thus concluding, she must have been present, too.

On numerous occasions, she looks to her mother for rescuing from her father’s verbal abuse, but her mother is mostly a mute presence.  One time late at night, her mother wakes Sontag in the middle of the night telling of her plans to escape having researched a small community in Wisconsin in which to flee.  Repeated late night talks with her mother fill Sontag with hope that a reprieve from the paternal abuse is right around the corner.  Yet, when divorce papers arrive in the mail and Sontag’s mother is berated by Sontag’s father, her mother takes out her frustration on Sontag by climbing on top of her and repeatedly banging her daughter’s head against the kitchen floor.  Further empty promises to divorce her father continue for years until Sontag, after much therapy realizes:

I wanted her.  I wanted Mom to be someone she wasn’t, to take on a strength she never possessed, to do what I hoped I would have done in her situation.  I thought that mothers were naturally inclined to protect their children, and she was failing.. . . I remember the aching way in which I knew wanting her would ruin my life. . . . In the years that followed I cut myself off from her completely. . . . I didn’t owe her anything because I’d escaped and she hadn’t.  That was her choice . . ..  (176, 231, 243)

Thus, when Sontag’s mother calls and pleads with Sontag to write a general apology letter to her father so that she would be allowed to attend Sontag’s college graduation, Sontag refuses.  Enough was enough for her.

Sontag’s prose is honest and insightful, and as reader, I find myself cheering her on for her survival and ultimate discovery of happiness with friends and loved ones whom she now considers her family:

The versions of ourselves we present to the world are perhaps the versions of ourselves we most want others to know.  We split and divide at the core, recreating ourselves, until we determine the perception we best like. . . . I was sad knowing that I could never go back . . . . That returning would not be reconciling with Mom and Dad but arriving in a place where I was creating ways to live, not just trying to survive.  (258-259).