Friday, August 24, 2012

Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck

Last fall, I was in the bookstore and saw a huge stack of signed copies of Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. I hadn't heard of the book, nor had I read his other well known book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I caved and bought Wonderstruck, because the cover was beautiful and the blurb mentioned the 1920s.

I didn't read it until recently, and it sat on my shelf for months. I finally decided to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, because the movie previews I saw fascinated me and it looked like it would be a quick read.

I'm doing a joint review of these two books, as I read them in such quick succession.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret centers around a boy, Hugo, who has been orphaned and lives in a train station repairing the clocks in the station and repairing an automaton his father discovered. He befriends the goddaughter of the toy seller in the train station and discovers this man may be a famous filmmaker.

Wonderstruck intertwines the story of a young girl in 1920s New York/New Jersey and a boy living in Grand Marais, Minnesota 50 years later. Ben, the boy, has lost his mother, and after finding a note and address in a book about museums, he makes his way to New York to find his father.

Both of these books are works of art. Melznick uses illustration to not just supplement the text, but to serve as part of the text. In Wonderstruck, the story of the girl is only told through pictures and in Hugo, the illustrations take the place of the written word. The illustrations are beautiful and really add to the overall story.

Melznick obviously does his research in regards to both books. I loved the exploration of film history in Hugo and the dwelving into Minnesota in Wonderstruck. When he does deviate from history, it's obviously deliberate. I am somewhat of a loss for words in regards to both books. They were both beautiful and Melznick captures nostalgia so well. I was probably more moved by Wonderstruck, because it has a Minnesota connection, though I loved Hugo Cabret, as well.

These are both amazing and moving works of art.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: The Wednesdays

Author: Julie Bourbeau
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Pages: 256
Source: Netgalley
Why I read it: Got an ARC from Netgalley and the premise sounded interesting.

Summary: Max’s village is absolutely normal in every single way and on every single day—except Wednesday. Most of the townsfolk shutter their windows and lock their doors to hide away from the many peculiar things that happen—things like cats getting stuck in the vacuum cleaner and birthday cakes meeting fiery and horrific ends. But Max is too curious for that, and so, breaking every rule in the village, he searches out the cause of all the Wednesday weirdness. What he uncovers is a secret so devious—so dastardly and mischievous—that life as he knows it will never be the same. Max himself is not the same. Suddenly the mysterious little accidents so common on Wednesdays are happening to him on Thursdays, Fridays—even Saturdays! What’s come over Max? And more importantly, is there any cure for a case of the Wednesdays? Mystery, magic, mischief and monsters abound in this slightly fantastical story of a human kid who wants to stay that way.
What I thought: Max lives in a village that is pretty normal except on Wednesdays. One Wednesday, he discovers that there are creatures called the Wednesdays that cause mischief around the village. Soon he discovers that he has caught a "case of the wednesdays," and is turning into one of the Wednesdays. The plot centers around Max trying to understand the Wednesdays and how to stop his transformation.
I was pulled in because the premise of the book sounded interesting, and I liked the illustration on the cover. Who doesn't love quirky little towns? But when I found out that the "wednesdays" were actually monsters, I felt a little disappointed. I probably should have seen this coming, as the description alludes to it and the cover does as well. I guess it's a case of nothing is scarier. The plot was a little predictable and simplistic to me, and I was able to accurately guess plot developments. As for the characters, I liked Max. He was complex and showed bravery and apprehension at the same time. I did like the supporting characters as well; his parents being afraid of him, but at the same time caring about his well being; his relationship with his baby brother; his friends Noah and Gemma, who help him carry out his final plan; Mr. Grimsrud and Thursday helping at the very end; and finally, the mystical doctor that was both intelligent and bumbling.

While I did like the characters, I felt like the world wasn't explained enough. Who are the Wednesdays, why did they become Wednesdays, why are the older ones so evil? Why do they cause mischief? Why did they choose Max? What happened to One? I get that they are supposed to be somewhat mysterious, but I wanted to know a little more about the village and the Wednesdays.

Maybe it's just me, but I read the book as a metaphor for puberty. Max's body and feelings are changing, and it's a completely negative experience. He's frustrated by his family and people at school and imagines bad things happening to them. Because he has caught a case of the "wednesdays," bad things do happen. This reminded me of how teenagers have been accused of causing poltergeist activity. His body is also changing and his clothes no longer fit. He wants to go back to the way things are before, and he has to struggle against this transformation that is happening to him. Maybe this was an odd reading of the book, but that's instantly what I thought when he started outgrowing his clothes. Surely I'm not the only one that felt this way!

I would rate this 3ish stars. I didn't hate it, but I didn't fall in love with the book either. It was ok.