With 284 pictures between the book’s 533 pages, the book depends equally on its pictures as it does on the actual words. Selznick himself has described the book as “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” The Caldecott Medal is for picture books, in 2008 this was first novel to receive.
The primary inspiration is the true story of turn-of-the-century French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata. Selznick decided to add automata to the storyline after reading Edison’s Eve by Gaby Wood, which tells the story of Edison’s attempt to create a talking wind-up doll.
Méliès actually had a set of automata, which were either sold or lost. At the end of his life Méliès was broke, even as his films were screening widely in the United States. He did work in a toy booth in a Paris railway station, hence the setting. Selznick drew Méliès’s real door in the book.
I thought this book was awesome. If you’ve got time to burn, or are just bored, this is an awesome book to read. At first, I thought this would be one of those kid’s books where the rating only reflect the art and not the story. I mean–those are great, but I wanted to read something for the story and not the art. But the way that Brian Selznick wrote this story, I got to enjoy both.
I thought that the ideas and the work behind this story were fantastic, and the way that children’s authors and movie producers are beginning to make stories without words is incredible. I was really impressed with Brian Selznick’s drawing style as well as his work that went into crafting that story using two different worlds.
The only problem I had was with the ending. It was a little…anticlimatic, I guess? It just felt like the majority of what was going on happened right in the middle-endingish part of the story. That was fine though. The ending was good, not quite satisfactory, but kind of just gently letting you off happily.
The movie was okay. It was really cool to see the book come to life like that, and I thought that the movie didn’t represent the book too badly.
pg count for the hardback: 625