The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

images-4I have just finished reading this beautiful and charming book.  I am in love!!  If I have to give any child a gift in the near future, this will be the gift.  Here is just a few examples of the charcoal drawings within this book:

hugo-cabret-533This is the story of a young boy, Hugo, who lives within the walls of a train station in Paris.  An orphan, he was left in the custody of his uncle, the clock keeper for the train station.  However, when Hugo’s uncle disappears, Hugo continues to live at the station and tends to the clocks.  Quite the talented little thief, Hugo has been stealing from the toy booth, in hopes of fixing the miniature mechanical man his father left him before he died.  The owner of the toy booth catches Hugo stealing and discovers his notebook, a collection of drawings that Hugo has been working on in an attempt to fix the mechanical man.  The toy booth owner takes an alarming interest in this notebook and takes it from Hugo, threatening to burn it.  Who is the toy booth owner and why does he care about Hugo’s sketches of the mechanical man?  What message does the mechanical man have for Hugo?  What follows is a tale of magic, beauty and dreams told through words and beautiful charcoal drawings.

Watch this trailer for a look into this stunning world that Selznick has created:

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Booking Through Thursday: Symbolism

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Question suggested by Barbara H:

My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.

It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?

I think that an author’s use of literary devices, such as symbolism, is what separates literature from fiction.

This is the problem I have with a lot of YA literature, I don’t think it is truly literature.  Don’t get me wrong,  some definitely are.  The Book Thief, definitely.  Twilight, not so much.  But hey, I read Confessions of a Shopaholic, so if you want to read a vampire book, go ahead.  Just don’t call either “literature”.

Okay, but to get back to the question as hand.  Excessive description?  Do you mean imagery?  Again, a device that is used for a purpose.  Often imagery connects to symbolism.  Look at The Great Gatsby.  The imagery associated with Daisy Buchanan is symbolic.  Everything is white, billowing, breezy, her laughter has a charm to it that draws men toward her, her voice is “full of money”.  The green light at the end of Gatsby’s dock?  Don’t even get me started on what that symbolizes. In The Catcher in the Rye you have a main character who wants everything to same the same, he wants to preserve the innocence of all the children everywhere.  Is it a coincidence that his favorite place to go is the museum where nothing ever changes?  Is it a coincidence that he wrote his history essay on mummies?  I don’t think so.  This my dear friends, is symbolism.

So, to answer your question.  No, I don’t think there is as much symbolism as English teachers think there is.  I THINK THERE”S MORE!!!

The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman

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From the inside flap:

“What is this book?  What is anything?  Who am I?  Who are you?  Stop it.  Forget it.  This is a year in my life.  Profusely illustrated.  Abounding with anguish, confusion, bits of wisdom.  Musings, meanderings, buckets of joie de vivre and restuful soujourns.”

I am not sure how to describe this book.  Visually, it was one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time.  Each page is filled with the author’s artwork and her thoughts/observations of the world and life itself, simple and yet profound at the same time.

I liked this book and would recommend that you check it out.  It is quirky, beautiful and with each turn of the page I felt more and more joy.  The author just chronicles a year in her life with tidbits of wisdom, illustrations of objects which hold a particular importance to her, and snippets of seemingly insignificant moments which are actually very telling. There was a section of photographs which I felt disrupted the flow, but actually liked the sequence of pictures taken from behind people.  All views of people walking away from the photographer.  To me it just seemed out of place within the book, but was still kind of cool to see.

The book inspired me to create my own journal of life observations.  How I wish I had some artistic talent!

I will leave you with some images from the book:

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Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson

Okay- so I have to admit, I took a HUGE break in the middle of the day. For about five hours. It was too nice out and I had stuff to do. Oh well, I am back to reading now for a bit, in between cleaning the house. I have just finished Sunday’s at Tiffany’s, so I guess I better do a review before I forget to do so.

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This was a good choice for the read-a-thon.  Quick and easy reading and entertaining.

As a young girl, Jane Margaux has an imaginary friend.  He is the only one who is there for her and doesn’t let her down.  But on her ninth birthday he leaves, as all imaginary friends do, promising her that it will be okay, she won’t remember him as time goes on.

The problem is she does remember Michael.  Twenty-three years after Michael disappeared, Jane is working on producing the a movie that tells the story of Jane and Michael’s friendship.  She is a successful producer with a handsome actor boyfriend, yet she is not happy.  And then she sees him.  Michael is back, but this time he doesn’t seem to be so imaginary. Is Michael an angel?  Will he have to leave again?  Why has he come back into Jane’s life at this moment?  And what happens when your “imagainary friend form childhood [is] your one true love?”

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

images-5 I just finished my first book of the read-a-thon.   I actually had an ARC of this book for a while, but for some reason I just kept avoiding it.  Well, I am glad I changed my mind.  I really loved this book and found myself swept up in the characters and their stories.

The book takes place in Mississippi in the early 60s.  While some parts of the nation are awakening to civil rights, Mississippi is not one of those parts.  This is a world of segregation and racism, inequality and ignorance.  The book follows the lives of three characters, Aibileen who is a black maid who has raised over seventeen white children, Minny another black maid who has lost several jobs due to her inability to “keep her mouth shut” and Skeeter the young white woman who is home from college.  Skeeter decides she is going to write a book that is a collection of maids’ stories, not realizing the dangers that such an endeavor faces.  What follows is an unlikely friendship between these three woman as they share their stories of heartbreak, loss and love.

The books alternates between these three characters and we learn about their lives, their pasts and all the complexities that make up each woman.   Each woman is taking a gigantic risk in this project and they all have something to lose.  But what they have to gain is so much more important.

I have included the following quote from the book, which I think sums it up quite nicely:

“Wasn’t that the point of hte book?  For women to realize, We are just two people.  Not that much separates us.  Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”