In the span of three days, I’ve finished two honkin’ novels by Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret* and Wonderstruck. They look pretty intimidating at first (that’s at least what I felt) because they are each around 600 pages, but as we all learn in elementary school: don’t judge a book by its cover. (Sometimes, I find this statement is literally incorrect, but in a metaphorical sense, it’s morally correct more than not – but that’s a whole ‘nother post.)
These books are very good, to say the least. I was surprised to see that half of the book was text and half was original illustrations by the author. I know that by saying that, I “un-mature” the books a bit, but what separates these illustrations from books geared toward younger kids is: without the illustrations, you wouldn’t understand the story. In Hugo most of the illustrations interrupt the text, tell part of the story with pictures, and drop you back into literature at the right place. See, if you skipped the pictures, you wouldn’t know what happened. In Wonderstruck, there are two stories running parallel to each other, and one is illustrated – and without absorbing the pictures, the story would not be nearly as profound. (Plus, pictures helped me read two 600 page books in three days.)
The one thing I admired most about these books above all the great aspects of them is that Selznick did his research. There are many pages in the back of the book explaining his sources, where he got his inspiration, who and where helped him find the vital parts to his story…You could say, in a sense, that his books are historical fiction, because Hugo is based around a famous filmmaker in Paris when movies FIRST came out. When they were very invigorating and new, new, new. Wonderstruck is based around a place called Gunflint Lake, Minnesota and the Museum of Natural History in New York. Of course, most of the stories are fiction, but a lot of them are also informational and new to me. I liked that Selznick went to great lengths to research and become very knowledgeable in those topics and was accurate in most details.
I would most definitely recommend these books to anyone. They are an easy read (pictures!) and both very, very good stories. I guess you could say I liked these books so much because they were just new in every aspect. And new is good.
*The Invention of Hugo Cabret is now a motion picture, though I haven’t seen it yet.