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Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Dinosaur Laments.....

I spent this afternoon reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It is well over 500 pages and is a hybrid of a graphic novel, picture book and novel. (can 3 things be a hybrid?) The black and white illustrations are wonderfully done and they occur in blocks that further the development of the story. It is a stunning book with a great storyline and I think it will be considered for both the Newbery and Caldecott award.

I enjoy books that don't fit into a single genre but when I started to read Hugo Cabret I found myself skipping the pictures to read the text and then going back and studying the pictures and ignoring the text. Tomorrow I will sit down and read it in sequence, but I'm afraid I will always favor the pictures my imagination draws from the words over any illustrations provided in the book. I wonder if there is a age related tendency to favor written words vs. visual images?

Years ago, (pre-internet) I was doing a book search for a lady in her 50's. She was looking for a specific edition of HEIDI which was read to her as a child. She remembered the book and it's illustrations vividly but no matter how hard I searched I could not find the version she recalled. A few months later she was visiting her cousin and found the actual book that her mother had read to her when she was 6 years old. She recognized the cover immediately but when she opened it up to revisit the illustrations she was stunned to find that the book was not illustrated at all. All the pictures she remembered so vividly had been provided by her own imagination.

She was of the generation raised prior to TV, I was raised with television in a limited fashion, an old black and white set and the choice of 3 network channels, one fuzzy because the signal had trouble clearing the mountains. And while I can appreciate the novelty and visual impact of a book like Hugo Cabret, and I sincerely hope it gets the recognition it deserves both for the art and the text, I'm afraid I will remain a reactionary old dinosaur muttering "the word, the word's the thing...."

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