On the Bookseller’s Bookshelf: Hugo

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invention of hugo cabret

Yesterday while shelving books, I happened to mention that I was thinking of seeing Martin Scorsese’s new movie, Hugo. This statement had the effect of conversation dominoes — one after another, people from every single table in the full cafe chimed in to tell me they’d seen the movie and loved it. (A few people had already seen it more than once.)

I did see the movie last night, and our customers were right. It’s fantastic. The story itself is about the significance of art to our lives and our relationships, and the format of the movie supported that with every frame — for once, I found 3D technology magical instead of gimmicky.

So, this morning, I picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the book the movie’s based on (you’ll find it in our new-and-improved Young Adult section). I loved reading it, and I appreciated the movie even more for being so true to the story and the strong visual elements in the book itself. And this book is extremely visual. It’s over 500 pages, but most of them are illustrations: really beautiful sketches that help you enter into the plot in a unique way. I enjoy this form of storytelling, and it can be especially important for children who may be struggling with reading.

As a little girl, I loved to curl up with a book, but a lot of kids aren’t as connected to language as I was. Visual learning is a different way to communicate, but it’s by no means an inferior one, but our school system is, unfortunately, set up so that many kids think they’re stupid if they’re not good readers.

A good way to combat this destructive idea is to help visual learners see reading as an adventure instead of a chore. Books like Hugo are exciting because they have the potential to help visual learners understand that books hold magic for them, too. It’s also hugely fulfilling for a child who struggles with reading to be able to get through a big, fat book like Hugo in a manageable amount of time. Since Hugo is packed with illustrations, the story moves quickly, giving children a sense of accomplishment because they’re able to finish it.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a wonderful book on its own, and it’s also a book that doesn’t suffer at all if you read it after seeing the movie. Enjoy it on your own, or share it with your favorite kids — whether they’re readers or not.

Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee and Books. Read more of her work on her blog, Shop Small, or follow her on Twitter.

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