The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: Book Cover

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Author: Brian Selznick

Page Length: 525

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Hugo Cabret is a 12 year old orphan who is an accomplished thief and one who is skilled at fixing clocks and other machines. Hugo lives and “works” in a train station during the 1930’s in Paris, France. Before this, a museum fire killed Hugo’s father and Hugo’s subsequent guardian deserts him. As a result, Hugo becomes a recluse and manages to lead a quiet life. However, the discovery of an automated machine and a notebook fascinate Hugo as they may provide clues about his father.

This fascination leads Hugo into a world of trouble as he must open up about his secret life and risk being taken into custody by officials. Little does Hugo know that much of what he has been hiding will provide insight into not only his life but the past life of a local toy maker.

REVIEW: This was a very creative story to read. Half of the book’s tale is told using black and white illustrations. The pictures do not just accompany the text, they actually add detail to the written story.

Upon encountering each picture, readers are encouraged to spend time with each illustration. The author goes beyond just a tale of an orphan trying to find out the secrets behind an old machine, by delving into the topic of the early silent picture/movie industry.

The author, after much research, has taken the known facts about the real-life filmmaker of Georges Melies (as represented in the character of the toy maker) and imagined his personality.

The art of early cinema and the adventure of secret discoveries come together in this great book that will appeal to many readers. It is a nice blend of graphic novel, art work, and film slides.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, setting, historical influence

RELATED BOOKS: Before Hollywood: From Shadow Play to the Silver Screen by Paul Clee

ART CONNECTIONS: There are 284 pages of original drawings by the author, Brian Selznick, in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

The book also contains drawings/sketches by Georges Melies (pages 284-297) as well as other works by Brian Selznick that were inspired by the works of Georges Melies.

For a complete listing of all film still and illustration credits, refer to page 531 of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: For a complete listing of films mentioned in the book as well as films that were influential in the creation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, refer to page 532 of the book.

Sources report that a film studio is looking into adapting the book into a movie for a 2011 release.

RELATED WEBSITES: (official website for the book) (type “Melies” into the search engine for links to Georges Meiles’ life story) (lessons and activities that relate to the book)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

August 30, 2009


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Eclipse (Book 3 in the Twilight series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Page Length: 629

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: With Edward back in full force in Bella’s life, her desire to become a vampire after high school graduation strengthens. However, the vampire Victoria is back with an army of newborn vampires which wreak havoc on the nearby Seattle area. Victoria, who still harbors intense revenge against Bella, sets her site on the town of Forks! Victoria plans to set these newborn vampires onto Bella!

Meanwhile, Bella becomes engaged to Edward and spends some of her free-time with Jake. During this time, Jake’s feelings for Bella intensify. Later in the woods, Bella and Jake kiss, however Bella quickly explains to Jake that even though she loves him, her love for Edward is much greater. She also reiterates the fact that she still desires to be a vampire.

Both the vampires and the werewolves of Forks become aware of the approaching newborn vampires and form an alliance for the primary purpose of protecting Bella. Due to a set of circumstances, both Edward and Jake become part of the fight. The intensity at which they battle against the newborn vampires is symbolic of the intensity of love that both Edward and Jake share for Bella. Thankfully, Victoria and the newborn vampires are destroyed.

Eclipse ends with Jake receiving a wedding invitation to Bella and Edward’s nuptials.

REVIEW: I did not enjoy this book in the Twilight series as much as I did the previous two. I felt much of the beginning was very slow. However, I liked how the vampires and werewolves combined forces for the purpose of Bella’s protection.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, cause and effect, setting, comparison / contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Twilight, New Moon, Breaking Dawn

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: “Twilight” (2008), “New Moon” (2009)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

June 7, 2009

New Moon

New Moon (Book 2 in the Twilight Series)

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Page Length: 563

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Bella Swan continues her romance with her vampire soul mate, Edward Cullen. Things are going well for the couple despite Edward’s suppressed feelings to attack and consume Bella. The story begins with a birthday celebration for Bella at the Cullen residence. When Bella falls prey to another clumsy accident, she cuts herself on glass which reveals her blood for the vampire family to salivate over. Jasper Cullen, who has difficult suppressing his appetite for human blood, lunges at Bella. Luckily he is held back by his family members and escorted away from Bella. This incident is the last straw for Edward who has tried his best to create a safe and controlled atmosphere for himself and his girlfriend.

After some odd behavior, Edward tells Bella that he is moving away, leaving her alone. Edward immediately exits the town of Forks and Bella’s life. Before leaving, Edward makes Bella promise not to do anything that would put herself in danger. Knowing the kind of person Bella is, this promise is sure to be one that will be broken.

Over the course of the next several months, Bella wanders around in a pseudo catatonic state. She is depressed and does not know how to live her life without her one true love. Luckily, a motorcycle and an old friend resurrect Bella from her dejected condition. Jacob Black, an old childhood friend from the local Native American reservation, helps Bella in her quest to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Little does Jacob know that the reason Bella desires to ride is to engage in dangerous activity which Edward asked that she not do. Bella has realized that while engaging in high risk activities, she is able to “hear” the voice of her vampire lover. This “voice” becomes an addiction to Bella, thus her quest for thrill-seeking adventures continues for much of the novel.

On the bright side, Bella grows closer to her friend, Jacob. She becomes happier, more productive, and almost “back to normal”. Jacob has strong feelings for his friend in return but is not forward enough to initiate much action initially. Just when Bella feels that she and Jacob are reaching a point where their relationship could move in a whole new direction (in a positive manner), Jacob disappears for several weeks. Bella attempts to make contact over time only to be ignored and shut out. Bella suspects that Jacob may be involved in some gang activity on his reservation but she is not quite sure. She later finds out that it is something much more secretive and unusual. Jacob is a member of a group – a pack of werewolves!!!

Jacob is fearful to reveal all that he is to Bella, however Bella expresses to Jacob that she is not turned off by the fact that Jacob is a werewolf. She even goes so far as to divulge many of the secrets that she and Edward shared. Of course Jacob was sure that Edward was a vampire, but to hear it from Bella’s mouth only reinforced his thoughts. Bella goes on to say that an evil vampire, Victoria, is after her. Jacob states that his pack of werewolves is on the hunt for this vampire and that Bella need not worry.

When Bella goes on a cliff diving venture she suffers a minor concussion in the water. Jacob saves her, but her action creates trouble for many. Alice Cullen has a vision of Bella cliff diving (appearing to commit suicide) and relays this to her family except for Edward. Rosalie Cullen, however, takes this information and shares it with Edward. Edward in turn sets out on a quest to visit the Volturi, an ancient vampire family in Italy, to stir up trouble in hopes of death. Edward would rather die than live on this Earth without his true love.

Alice and Bella track down Edward and save him, however Bella is revealed to the Volturi to be a special and intriguing human. The Volturi release Bella, Alice, and Edward on the condition that Bella will be turned into a vampire at some point. The Volturi further stated that they would check up on the Cullen family to view the new state of Bella.

When the Cullens and Bella arrive back to Forks, they have a discussion about turning Bella into a vampire. Carlisle Cullen agrees to turn Bella into one of them upon graduation from high school. Later it is revealed that Jacob Black is aware of this plan and is not happy. He tells Edward that if the Cullens turn Bella into a vampire, the treaty that the werewolves and the vampires have held in the town of Forks will be broken.

At the conclusion of book 2, Bella is in quite a predicament: if she is not turned into a vampire soon, the Volturi will kill her. If she does become a vampire, the vampire / werewolf treaty will have been broken, and the werewolves (including Jacob) would kill Bella and the Cullen family.

REVIEW: Book 2 in the Twilight series is much more action packed yet still retains much of the emotion from book 1. The comparisons and contrasts between Jacob and Edward is striking. Both Jacob and Edward love Bella. Both Jacob and Edward are non-human creatures of violence. Jacob and Edward are true enemies connected by their affection for a human. New Moon is a roller coaster of emotions. Many references to the Shakespeare characters of Romeo, Juliet, Rosaline, and Paris are mentioned. Bella compares herself to Juliet, Edward to Romeo, and Jacob to Paris. I enjoyed how Bella is caught in the middle not only emotionally but sometimes physically between Edward and Jacob. The twist at the end involving the vampire / werewolf treaty was a nice touch in connection to Bella’s continued desire to become a vampire. Just when Bella feels she is close to becoming more like Edward, she realizes that the very thing that she wants the most, might lead to her ultimate death at the hands of another that she loves.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: characterization, cause and effect, setting, comparison / contrast

RELATED BOOKS: Twilight, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “New Moon” (movie set to release in late 2009)

RELATED WEBSITES: (official website of the author)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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