I had no idea this was a graphic novel. Well, not really a graphic novel. It’s not a comic book. It’s a book-book, but with lots of stunningly gorgeous illustrations, pencil drawings even more beautiful than you can imagine. So it’s sort of like a picture book…only not exactly that, either. It’s its own invention, this book is, and rather deservedly.
I bought it not knowing what I was really getting. I knew the movie Hugo was based on this book, but I hadn’t seen it; I’d just heard all of the rave reviews. I kept an eye out for it in the used-book store I stalk, but never saw it surface. So finally I broke down and bought it, knowing only that there was something to do with a 10-ish year old boy who lived in a train station and took care of the clocks. Wow, can someone say genre-kryptonite?
The story is delightful. More than delightful. It’s magical. And just the right amount of trope-ish but with new twists. Picture a 1940s Harry Potter staying an orphaned muggle and living in a train station to take care of the clocks, and the only books he has to read are Erin Morgenstern’s hauntingly imaginative The Night Circus, Sherlock Holmes, and Pinnocchio, except an alternate-reality Gepetto where Gepetto used to be a film producer before he got tied up in marionettes. Okay, maybe that isn’t the best analogy.
Hmm…maybe you should just go read it. Preferably with someone from the 10-year-old crowd, but the storyline will hold ya if you’re on your own. (If the storyline doesn’t, the detail on the drawings sure will.) There are bits that will annoy, I’m sure – like the neatness of how everything tied together at the end, and how easily everyone forgets about the theft charges – but I found myself willing to overlook the few flaws just to believe in a bit of magic for a few pages. The brilliance of the drawings makes the heft of the book go by deceptively fast – hopefully teaching my young daughter not to hate on a book just because it looks like it will take her forever to read. That’s an important lesson in an of itself.
Five out of five stars for Hugo Cabret. Now to see how it compares to its silver screen adaptation.