Tuesday, June 28, 2011

biscuit and hugo (and fine, flirty airplanes).

Listening To: Everything is Moving So Fast by Great Lake Swimmers

"I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and types of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason, too." - Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, p. 378

Hello beauties (& beastlies). I'm deep into a couple of projects, so I can't give you a proper post. But I wanted to 1.) say hello ...

*waves to you* : ) Thanks for being so swanky.

And 2.) point you in the direction of two very wonderful things.

Wonder #1: Our beloved blog mascot, Biscuit the Spydog, made her press debut! I entered one of my favorite pictures of my favorite fuzzball into the Garden&Gun Good Dog Photo Contest. Biscuit didn't "win." But she was totally included in the mix! If you click through to her picture, I would be willing to bet my last spoonful of homemade granola that you'll end up smiling. Just look at all those puppies! So many adorable dogs: running, smiling, sleeping, posing, just being sweet. Here's the screenshot of Biscuit's celebrity moment:

When I showed it to her, she promptly propped her face on the keyboard, stared at herself, and wagged her tail. And occasionally licked the screen. My dog does not lack confidence. (Thank you, Garden & Gun :)

Wonder #2: My next very wonderful thing comes courtesy of Brian Selznick, in the form of a novel he wrote called The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

{Well ... technically the book came courtesy of my library. Brian Selznick didn't, like, send it to me. But the novel did come from Mr. Selznick's imagination so I'm blaming him for the general wonderfulness of Wonder #2.}

{Editorial Note: I feel weird calling him "Mr. Selznick" but it's not like I know him. Feels weird to go all "Brian," when I'm writing about his book. And I hate calling people by their last names; as though the world is an everlasting P.E. class. So I'll stick with "Mr. Selznick" for now.}

{But if I talk about his future books, I'll maybe call him Captain Znick?}

Where were we? Hugo Cabret!

If you're rolling your eyes now, like "geeeeez, Hugo Cabret is, like, soooo 2007" ... you are tee-totally right. In the immortal words of the beloved poet Fergie Ferg: you people are so two thousand and eight. And I am so two thousand and late. But in this situation, better late than never truly, truly applies.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a book I've kept on my "To Read" list for years. Stupidly, I kept bumping the book on down the list. Because I didn't have someone selling it as hard to me as I'm about to sell it to you. I'm not much of a salesperson, and I get no kickback here, but I do get a kick out of matching people up with stories they might fall in love with. I've learned my lesson on matchmaking my friends: I will never, ever, EVER do that ever again. But I'll never stop matchmaking people with great books. I cannot stop myself. And so:

My Dearly Adorable Beauties (& Beastlies): Hugo Cabret is magical. And I so crazy-bad want you to experience this book before they make the book into a movie. I am most definitely not a stickler for scene by scene book to film adaptations. I like that they're different. I get that page and film are different methods of storytelling; that some aspects will work splendidly in one and suckily in the other. Quite honestly, I don't understand the point of paying $10 to go see something exactly like what I read.

But. This book has such a unique artistic bent to it. I'm sure the movie will be sensational. But I want you to hold it in your hands and turn the pages and experience Hugo Cabret this way, the way it was meant to be taken in, before you see it on the screen (a medium wholly fitting for this project ... but, even so, I think the sequence of book, then movie, will be a cooler experience).

I won't post the plot-teaser, because I'm guessing you already know it. And because the synopsis is easy to look up. Instead, I'll say this:

Brian Selznick's work in Hugo Cabret is like two wings of a bird: the text and illustrations are fantastically dependent on each other. Illustrations abound in this novel. Do not let the thickness of the book scare you away. In fact, if you know a reluctant middle grade, or young adult (or adult!) reader, I would definitely recommend putting Hugo Cabret into their lucky hands. Hugo is not as long as it appears (barely over 20,000 words); but the story still fills up every single page. It is smart and sad and spellbinding. And it is unique.

And these illustrations ...

Gracious. The shiny Caldecott sticker on the front is well-deserved.

Some of Mr. Selznick's illustrations were clearer when I held them away from me. Other illustrations pulled me in toward particular aspects of particular scenes ... then further in ... then further in ...

... until I literally had my nose in the book trying to see exactly the detail I was meant to notice.

Some illustrations were fuzzy. Like memories. Some were stark and bright; bright even though they are black and white. You need to see them to understand what I'm talking about.

Slight tangent: I read a bit about publishing, even though I don't enjoy that as much as reading about writing (the business part of writing never spins my heart like the part where people talk about inspiration, craft, and commitment). When I read about publishing, I see much about how books have to change; keep in-step with tech savvy readers.

Include bar codes with extra material.
Add play lists.
Do card games and splashy websites.
Add online, interactive experiences.

And that's all fine and fancy and cool. I'm not a Scrooge when it comes to technology. I don't get very excited over any of that though. I don't feel like I need extra stuff to add to the experience for me. But. What does excite me about the future of publishing is the possibility of freeing up author/illustrators, like Brian Selznick, to tell a story (like Hugo) in such a creative and unique way. In a mind-bending way. Even with illustrations, this book asks your imagination to work. I adore that. Hugo Cabret is not a traditional book. But it is certainly timeless.

I'm not a book reviewer, so cut me some slack as I round this out:

Hugo Cabret, the novel, is about dreaming and imagining and doing; about how those three endeavors collide, and change, and change you. This book is about the magic that comes from man-made machines - clocks and automatons and a whirring toy mouse. It is about filmmaking and story-telling and working, working, working, so hard, to make something beautiful - only to have the public love it, then hate it, or both. Maybe what you create will be rejected. Maybe it will burn up in a firestorm. Maybe it will be laughed at. Maybe it will be lost for a thousand years. Or one year. Or ten. This book is about all that; about lost things and the gaping hole they leave behind.

But it is also about what we find: secret messages, old pictures, golden keys. A kind heart. A listening ear. A better dream. A start-over. The strength to survive, to reach out again, to try.

At the beginning of the novel, Hugo doesn't have much to look forward to. He's lost in the past. He's committed to the present. The constant ticking of clocks, the way Hugo tends to time, seems (at first) to only serves as a reminder of all he has lost. And yet. Hugo still has his imagination. He still has his memories. He still has a future. He can still love. And he is determined.

Hugo Cabret reminded me that, even when the dreams we love, and long for, bust up and shatter all to bits ... something Bigger and Better can still make its quiet, but oh so timely entrance. There are still good endings up ahead of us, all sequenced so strangely by the slow-moving hand of an old clock. All kept in the lock-box of a broken, but resilient, heart.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is bookmagic. I think it only fitting that I finished it on a late afternoon, when the sun and stars were pushing against each other. Almost-night is the most magical part of a day. I could see the sun setting, somewhere past my book.

I glanced up in time to see that same setting sun scrape the side of a silver airplane. The lights from the airplane blinked down at me. Planes are so bad for blinking and winking and flirting, aren't they? Sometimes I look up and wonder where the planes are going. Sometimes I wish I was on them. But I didn't that night; because I was reading Hugo Cabret. And like all good books, Hugo reminded me that the magic is there, in the words between the covers.

And the magic is here, just in front of me, if I'll reach out and take it.

So. I would like to thank Brian Selznick, whom I do not know and will most likely never meet (and feel awkward calling "Brian" or "Selznick" or Captin Znick), for making my summer reading so rock-awesome. In the off chance he googles himself and finds this review, I hope he forgives me for my lack of book-reviewing savvy.

And I would like to encourage you to shuffle, not walk, to the nearest happy-place where you can buy The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Get lost in this novel this holiday weekend. Make it a weekend of Smores and fireworks and magical clocks.

Brian Selznick's new novel, Wonderstruck, will be available this September. Girl Scouts Honor: I will not wait four years this time; I will purchase that book the day it comes out. And then we will proceed to gush about it. ; )

The lights came up and the man of honor was then invited up on a stage, where he was given a gold laurel wreath to wear as a crown. He stepped to the podium and said to the audience in a proud, emotion-filled voice, "As I look out at all of you gathered here, I want to say that I don't see a room full of Parisians in top hats and diamonds and silk dresses. I don't see bankers and housewives and store clerks. No. I address you all tonight as you truly are: wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, and magicians. You are the true dreamers." - from The Invention of Hugo Cabret, p. 506

Happy weekending to you; you wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, and magicians.

You truest of true dreamers. ; )

So much for not doing a "proper post." : ) Thanks for sticking with me even when I get long-winded. Care to share a favorite quote or passage from the book you're reading? I would love to see it!


  1. I will have to try that book out! And Biscuit looks adorable :) Sadly, I don't have any time for reading right and haven't for a while...hopefully that will change soon.

    Thanks for your sweet comment on my blog! :)

  2. i;ve wanted to read this book for so long, now i most definately will have too.

  3. I have heard so much about this book, and it sounds amazing. I've been meaning to get it, but I haven't been to the library in forever so I haven't had a chance (thanks to the obsessive book buying I've been doing lately...my "to read" stack is so overwhelming I don't dare step in a library until it's narrowed down a bit).

    Speaking of online, interactive experiences with books, how do you feel about Pottermore? :) I'm more excited than I thought I would be, considering it's online. I guess if I can't have a printed encyclopedia, I'll take new behind-the-scenes info online if I have to. Right now, I'm reading through the series again (and rewatching the films) in preparation for July 15th, and I'm falling in love with the books all over again. :) I'm also planning on going to the midnight showing, which is thrilling and terrifying at the same time (I'm one of those people who never stays up late and who likes to always keep my sleep schedule the same :).


  4. I'm so incredibly happy that you loved this book. I picked it up a few years back and fell absolutely in love. That book is magic.

  5. I've never heard of that book before and I'm thoroughly intrigued now. The illustrations remind me a bit of "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" which is a fantastic book, containing strange pictures with a one or two sentence statement/story. Your imagination is sure to take off!

  6. Now that I read your review about this book I am so very excited to find it and read it! It really does sound wonderful:)

  7. I just wanted to thank you for writing Paperdoll! It's been such a pleasure to read, and lately I've been using it to help me plan a lesson to teach to teenage girls on my youth group's upcoming trip to Zambia. Your words are such an inspiration!

  8. The Invention of Hugo Cabret looks like such a good read! I'll have to look for it the next time I'm at the library.

    I'm in the middle of Shauna Niequist's Cold Tangerines right now, and the essay "Old House" really stuck with me, because I currently live in the same city, in the same kind of old house she describes at the beginning of the essay.

    I love the following two paragraphs:

    "On my worst days, I start to believe that what God wants is perfection. That God is a new-house God. That everything has to work just right, with no cracks in the plaster and no loose tiles. That I need to be completely fixed up. I always think that God's kind of people are squeaky-clean people whose garages don't leak, but really a lot of the people God uses to do amazing things are people who don't necessarily have it all together. A lot of the best stories in the Bible, the ones where God does sacred, magical things through people, have a cast of characters with kind of shady pasts, some serious fixer-uppers.

    "On my very best days, as an act of solidarity with my house, since we're both kind of odd, mismatched, screwed-up things, I practice letting it be an old not-fixed-up house, while I practice being a not-fixed-up person. I wear my ugly pants, the saggy yellow terry-cloth ones with the permanently dirty hems, and I walk around my house, looking at all the things that I should fix someday, but I don't fix them just yet, and I imagine God noticing all the things about me that should get fixed up one day, and loving me anyway and being okay with the mess for the time being."

  9. I am going to pick this book up tomorrow, if I can find it in stores! :) Sounds so magical! I love your nail polish btw!

  10. Hey Natalie! The Invention of Hugo Cabret is now at the top of my "To Read" list! I'm in the middle of a book right now that I think you would love, too. It's called Going Solo and it's written by Roald Dahl (the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author, but I bet you knew that). The book is an autobiography of his life during his 20's when he worked in Africa and flew fighter planes in WWII. It is enthralling! His writing is clever and his exploits are beyond insane. The book also has pictures of him in Africa/flying planes and letters that he wrote to his mom during the war. Even though it is non-fiction, the book reads like a novel.

    "It would seem that when the British live for years in a foul and sweaty climate among foreign people they maintain their sanity by allowing themselves to go slightly dotty... On the SS Mantola just about everybody had his or her own particular maggot in the brain, and for me it was like watching a kind of non-stop pantomime throughout the entire voyage...

    "On our fourth morning at sea I happened to wake up very early. I lay in my bunk gazing idly through the port-hole and listening to the gentle snores of U.N. Savory, who lay below me. Suddenly, the figure of a naked man, naked as a jungle ape, went swooshing past the port-hole and disappeared! He had come and gone in absolute silence and I lay there wondering whether perhaps I had seen a phantom or a vision or even a naked ghost." -Going Solo by Roald Dahl, pgs. 3-4

    While I'm reading it, half of the time I'm laughing out loud at his escapades and the other half I'm wondering how he'll survive his next near-death experience.

    Happy 4th of July!

  11. i just finished hugo cabret and it was just as wonderful and charming and magical as you described! it made me realize that many of my favorite books are intended for children, but i don't think that's a bad thing :)
    thank you for this delightful read! i love your book recommendations!