Wonderfully Inventive

There are a lot of maxims that are basically bollocks. “Do not judge a book by its cover” is most definitely one of them. I have found that 99% of the time, if the publisher has bothered to spend time and money to design a beautiful cover, the book will be at least of a 3.75โญ caliber. Of course, a beautiful cover is subjective but compare your cheap, supermarket reads (the ones you find next to the magazines about alien sightings) to the ones found in the “literary” section of a bookstore and you’ll see what I mean. Of course the reverse isn’t always true, that a badly designed book will be bad, but the percentage is high enough that I feel my prejudice justified.

So I admit that I was first drawn to Brian Selznick’s work by the utter gorgeousness of his books. I mean look at them!

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I read The Inventions of Hugo Cabret years ago after watching the movie (incidentally, one of those that doesn’t disappoint the book IMO). I absolutely love Selznick’s beautiful artwork and his ability to meld it with the text. His characters are strong and the story-line draws you right in.

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We had finished The Secret Garden and had started on The Return to the Secret Garden and Iris did not like it because it had WWII as a main theme. She was reluctant to start Hugo Cabret because she thought it was similar. A few chapters in, however, and she was hooked. It’s one of the few books out there that combine good, proper writing with lots of images. If you haven’t read it or seen the movie, the book is about orphaned Hugo Cabret who goes to live with his uncle in a Paris train station where he maintains the clocks. When his uncle disappears, Hugo masquerades as his uncle, secretly maintaining the clocks because he doesn’t want to go to an orphanage. Meanwhile, he continues to work on the automaton his father was working on when he died, hoping that it will give him some closure. He meets a toy maker and his adoptive daughter who help him to realise his dream and at the same time, rediscover old passions and heal old wounds.

She loved it so much that she insisted we read Wonderstruck right after.

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The style of Wonderstruck is slightly different but also superbly done. The text tells the story of Ben in 1977, who lost his mother and never knew his father. He has a love for collecting things and museums. The illustrations tell the story of Rose from 50 years before in 1927. The two stories are told in sync and finally meld into one towards the end. Selznick drew inspiration for Wonderstruck from a documentary and deafness and to me, his illustrations bring out the story of a deaf person that much more powerfully because their world is all about sight (and touch and taste of course but you get what I mean).

Admittedly, Wonderstruck is slightly harder reading than Hugo Cabret for my 7-year-old, but she loved it all the same and didn’t want to stop each night. It helps that half the book is in pictures.

Can’t wait to get into The Marvels.

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