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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hugo Cabret: The Shape of Things to Come?

Last year at the SCBWI conference in New York, I was in the audience when Brian Selznick presented his amazing The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a Novel in Words and Pictures. He first spoke about how he was inspired by silent films, especially those created by the Lumiere brothers of France. Then he showed a nonstop montage of images from Hugo (lasting at least 20 minutes) accompanied by atmospheric orchestral music and, of course, ending with a famous shot of the David O. Selznick mansion, which featured in the credits of many Hollywood classic films (the director is a cousin of Brian’s grandfather). When the “film” was over, there was a collective gasp, and then a standing ovation.

Graphic novels today seem to take most of their inspiration from current mainstream cinematic effects. Selznick showed his audience that any powerful visual medium can spark and trigger an idea, a plotline, a character, or a scene. That’s one of the reasons I was thrilled to hear that Hugo won the Caldecott: Selznick has redefined the novel that tells its story “in words and pictures.” At Stone Arch Books we have two copies of Selznick’s 20-pound tome on our shelves, one for Design and one for Editorial. Hugo makes us look at all of the art that surrounds us on a daily basis, and re-think how it can help us make our books more exciting and more affecting, and speak to reluctant readers in ways we never thought possible.

--Michael Dahl
Editorial Director, Stone Arch Books

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