Monday, July 16, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

A couple of commenters have recommended Brian Selznick's beautiful The Invention of Hugo Cabret to be considered for our mock Newbery. I haven't read the book yet, although I've seen it and can't wait to.

For those of you who've read it already - I'm wondering what your thoughts are on it, considering the following Newbery Criteria:

2. Each book is to be considered as a contribution to literature. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other aspects of a book are to be considered only if they distract from the text. Such other aspects might include illustrations, overall design of the book, etc.

Is it possible to read and consider this book without considering its illustrations and design? I'm sure it is, although I'm also sure it would be a challenge (for me, at least), since these pieces of the book are so stunning. But perhaps the more important question is this: Does this book still seem a good candidate for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature for the year 2007? Based on text alone?

I ask before I have my own opinion. So I'll be able to contribute soon, but not now, to the discussion which will hopefully take place in the comments of this entry.

What do you, readers, think?


Sarah Miller said...

Well, that's a toughie, seeing as the illustrations are so integral to the text. If you disregard the pictures, you lose part of the story. So in this case, the illustrations certainly don't distract from the story -- they add to it.

I think Hugo is going to be a particular challenge to the committee, because books of this nature didn't exist when the Newbery criteria was written. If Hugo is going to gain Newbery regonition, people will have to be willing to stretch either their minds or the criteria to accomodate its format.

If you interpret "distinguished" to mean unique, than Hugo is a huge cut above anything else I've seen this year.

Emily Jiang said...

I resisted reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret because of the hype, but I ended up loving it so much. It's a wonderful example of compelling historical fiction that uses fascinating historical facts to support the story rather than the facts overwhelming the story. I agree with Sarah how the illustrations add and help complete the story.

I think definitely it should be considered for the Newbery, even if it doesn't technically have all the story in the text.

With amazing illustrated hybrid novels like The Invention of Hugo Cabret and graphic novels like American Born Chinese winning the Printz, and I think there will eventually be a new award for graphic novels.

Kind of like at the Oscars, when Beauty and the Beast created a new category for "Best Animated Film" when it was nominated for "Best Film."

sharon said...

It'll be interesting to see what happens as more of these types of books come out (and as graphic novels become a more widely accepted form of literature). For now, for the Newbery Committee to be able to consider this particular book, they would have to consider it as if the pictures do not exist, basically, and consider it based only on the text. I don't think the committee has the power to do anything otherwise, perhaps maybe make suggestions to ALSC in terms of changing the criteria or suggesting a new award.

I'll give it a read soon and see how I feel about the text standing alone against the other books that have been published this year.

Definitely an interesting discussion.

Becky said...

Based on text alone, I don't think The Invention of Hugo Cabret is that worthy of an award. Don't get me wrong, as a whole it works amazingly well. I think it's unique. I think its memorable. I think many if not most readers will love it. It's just that the "magic" of this book is in the pictures.

Sarah Miller said...

I think Becky's right. If the Newbery committee sticks rigidly to the criteria, Hugo doesn't have a chance.

Check out the Horn Book's review of the audio edition (page 417 of the July/August issue) to see what I mean.

literaticat said...

Why shouldn't it win the Caldecott? That's what that award is for, no?

Caldecott criteria:

"There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work... "

"A "picture book for children" as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised."

Anonymous said...

I thought that Hugo was a brilliant book, but it doesn't seem to fit into any category. I know that the committee will not be considering it at all. Still, Selznick wrote a fantastic book. It does seem like we need some new category for it.

Franki said...

The text can't really stand alone in this one. I am not sure how that will play out with the awards. It is definitely a huge contribution--something that has never been done. But considering only the text is really considering only 1/2 of the book. I read this book aloud to my class last year and we had 14 copies so everyone had their hands on the book. The pictures were the story--or a lot of it. And the depth of the pictures is brilliant. I didn't really expect to like it, but I was totally struck by the brilliance of it all--together. Intereting criteria that I hadn't thought about in terms of this book.

matthue said...

Oh, pish! I know the official Newbery regulations, but everything matters in a book. It all weighs in, one way or another. Even the *font* a book's written in affects the story, one way or another...

Anyway, Hugo Cabret is a genius story. The pictures definitely add something -- well, they're an integral part of the book -- but disregarding the pictures would be like disregarding the titles of books, or the usage of a certain word, or the "Dear Kitty" framing of Anne Frank's diary.

Amen to what Sarah said. And what Emily said. And to bashing down borders, and opening doors.

sharon said...

well, there are definitely ways to see how this book could still have a chance with the newbery. there is nothing that says specifically that the text has to stand alone, merely that it is the only piece to be considered. or specifically "The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other aspects of a book are to be considered only if they distract from the text. Such other aspects might include illustrations, overall design of the book, etc."

one might be able to argue that the text of this novel is distinguished under all the criteria of the Newbery even without the text telling the entire story. it'll certainly be really interesting to see what the committee does with it. my inside connection keeps her lips tight (as she should)!

this is sort of along the lines of what you say, matthue - that everything is taken into account when looking at a book.

in terms of this particular mock newbery, i'm actually really excited by this discussion and am glad we're having it. the reason i haven't decided on this book as one to be considered by our group, though, is that i'm afraid this discussion is a bit intense and will dominate our scarce few hours together. so, i'll leave that kind of in-person nitty gritty consideration to the actual newbery committee, and to us via this blog!

keep the comments coming!

matthue said...

ok, granted -- and well-summarized, Librarian McKellar!

But, oh, man. Is Wright 3 eligible? Or am I way behind the times??

sharon said...

a good thought and a great book, but it was published in '06, so last year would've been its year!