The Caldecott Medal is given out each year (at the same time as the Newbery by the ALA) to the artist of the most “distinguished American picture book for Children.” Award-winning books that you might be familiar with include Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Polar Express.
This year the winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, was a somewhat surprising choice because the book was over 550 pages long. Usually the books run from about 15-50 pages, so this is a big change.
About two-thirds of the pages are two-page illustrations and the remaining pages are text. The pictures keep the story moving – you couldn’t follow the story very well without them – and Selznick moves nicely between the text and the images.
The illustrations are gorgeous (all black and white) and I loved looking through them. They are the kind of drawings you’d want to frame and put on your child’s wall. I’m not really even that big into art, and I absolutely adored them.
The story follows Hugo Cabret, a young orphan who lives in a little apartment inside the walls of a Paris train station. He keeps all the clocks in the station running smoothly and on time. In his spare time, he is also working on a secret project, for which he must steal parts from the mechanical toy shop in the train station.
Unfortunately, the grumpy toy shop owner catches him and takes his notebook full of instructions for his secret project, which devastates Hugo. He joins forces with the owner’s goddaughter, Isabelle, to get it back. As the two children develop a cautious friendship, they discover secrets about each other and other characters they could never have imagined.
One of the main characters is actually a real person and it’s enchanting to watch these facts woven into a fictional story.
This is a quick read (it probably took me about 2-3 hours total) and engrossing from start to finish. Apparently it’s been incredibly popular among elementary school students because they love having read a 500+ page book on their own.
I’d recommend this to anyone – it’s a tremendously good story and the gorgeous illustrations make it even more fun.