Monday, March 12, 2007


I haven't shared my bookshelf in a while. Mainly because there hasn't been very interesting stuff on it. Right now I'm back on an art history kick and I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately. I've also been trying to expand my horizons with some manga. Here it is:

Loot, by Aaron Elkins
The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa, by Robert Noah
Chibi Vampire, Vol. 1, by Yuna Kagesaki
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Tasmanian Tiger: The Tragic Tale of How the World Lost Its Most Mysterious Predator, by David Owen
Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman
Evil Hour in Colombia, by Forrest Hylton
One-Eye! Two-Eyes! Three-Eyes! by Aaron Shepard

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hugo Cabret

I want to talk about the most incredible book I read this week. It is called The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 1/07), by Brian Selznick, and it's a children's novel with illustrations. Well, at it's most basic, that's what it is. It's like nothing that has been done before, completely original. It is this gorgeous melding of the graphic novel format (sort of) and the written word, with some fantastic historical photos as well. About half of the novel is told in words and half in pencil drawings that could be enjoyed by all ages. It's just so original and the story is beautiful and the illustrations are amazing. Could I rave any more? It's a masterpiece!

Set in the 1930's, the story follows a young boy, Hugo, who has been orphaned and lives inside the walls of a train station in Paris where he continues in the tradition of his dead uncle to keep all of the clocks in the building wound and accurate. He is fascinated with mechanics and clockworks and steals parts from a toy seller in the station to build his own wind-up creations. Hugo is obsessed with repairing an automaton that his father rescued from a burning museum because of the beauty of its design. He is also convinced that it will bring him a message from beyond the grave. What it does eventually bring to Hugo's life is connections to real people and a surprising and wonderful story about the origins of cinema. I really can't do justice to the plot at all, you'll just need to have a look for yourself.

What I love about the use of the illustrations is how cinematic they are. Each image has a specific purpose and they are often zoomed views of the character's face to show an emotion. The text will break and we see what is going on. The text story always resumes after the pictures have finished the story they are telling, fitting together as a cohesive whole. And it works so well because the story partially revolves around the cinema. Rave, rave, rave. This is fine art, folks.

I would love to see this book get a lot of interest, especially during awards season. I read in my Entertainment Weekly this week that Martin Scorsese has the film rights and plans to start working on a film adaptation soon. That will be really interesting. The book made me want to see the original films that are described and maybe those would be incorporated into a film version. It's also super scary to think of this getting into anyone's hands as a film, but you gotta trust Marty, right?

A colleague of mine said this was the best children's novel she'd read in a couple of years and I, too, think it's wonderful. Please try it yourself and pass it on to a young friend.


Here is the official website for The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Here is a link to a photo and story about the automaton that Selznick studied while writing the novel. It is housed at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Here is a link to Brian Selznick talking about the book on NPR.

Here is a link to a Variety article about Scorsese and the film.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cat in the Hat

Today was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat. There was a really great story on NPR today that talked about the history of the book. My favorite professor from library school, Anita Silvey, spoke on the program, which I enjoyed.

I do feel the need to fess up, though. I don't like The Cat in the Hat! In the program, the commentator mentioned that those who grew up with the Cat pass the Cat on to their children, while those who didn't, generally don't. My mom didn't like Dr. Seuss and now I find myself similarly impatient with Seuss. Also, like the fish in The Cat in the Hat, I am made very nervous by the Cat's antics. (Okay, extremely stressed out.)

Enough confessions. Go out and re-read The Cat in the Hat and decide for yourself.