The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures, by Brian Selznick. Scholastic Press, 2007.

This book, on which the movie "Hugo" is based, won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for its illustrations in 2008. These take up at least half of the 533 pages between its covers. For kids accustomed to the weighty tomes in the Harry Potter series, heft should be no object.  However, "Hugo" is aimed at a younger audience.

In early 20th century Paris, Hugo, a 12 year old orphan, performs his uncle's work as timekeeper for all the clocks in the train station. Hugo has salvaged an automaton from the ruins of a museum destroyed by fire, and steals mechanical toys from the toymaker's store in the train station to acquire parts to repair it. Once he is caught, events that threaten his livelihood and the automaton unfold at an alarming rate.

I enjoyed the author's skill in integrating the pictures with the text, seamlessly transitioning from one to the other as the drama unfolds. I was engaged by the entertaining lesson about early French films, which was certainly enhanced by the visual storytelling provided by the illustrations. I was intrigued by the fairly extensive bibliography and filmography at the end, even though this is a work of children's fiction! Selznick also provides a link to information and videos about a similar automaton in the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.