Monday, June 22, 2009

A Mysterious Book Found in a Mysterious Location...

A few days ago, Kendall knocked her favorite toy under the bed and I found her frantically scratching and pawing at the carpet, trying desperately to reach it. Knowing that she wouldn't rest until it was in her mouth again, I got down on my stomach and peered into the dusty blackness. As I slid my arm as far underneath the bed as physically possible, my hand hit something hard and heavy: a book! Even without seeing the cover, I knew exactly which book it was: The Invention of Hugo Cabret--a favorite among my students a couple of years ago. How the book ended up under the bed, however, remains a mystery, although my literature-loving dog may have something to do with it...

Don't be intimidated by the size of this book. Although it is heavy enough to do some serious damage if you drop it on a toe, 284 of the 513 pages are original illustrations hand-drawn by the author, Brian Selznick.

The story takes place within the walls of a train station in Paris where Hugo, an orphan, lives in a secret room. Hugo has tended to the station clocks ever since his uncle disappeared, and he knows all of the secret hallways, tunnels, and rooms hidden beyond the station walls. Hugo spends his days fixing the clocks, stealing bites of food when he can, and trying to stear clear of the Station Inspector who will send him off to an orphanage if he is caught.

The only thing Hugo has left of his father is an automaton (an old-fashioned robot that writes) that was found in the rubble of the museum where he worked after it was burned down. Hugo is absolutely certain that if he can fix the automaton by reading father's notes, it will write a message from his father.

"What is it?"
"An automaton."
"What's that?"
"It's a windup figure, like a music box or a toy, except it's infinitely more complicated."
"What do you mean?"
"This one can write. At least I think it can. It's got a pen in its hand, and it's sitting at a desk. I'm sure that if it were working, you could wind it up, put a piece of paper on the desk, and all those little parts would engage and cause the arm to move in such a way that it would write out some kind of note."

Cool stuff, right? Find out more about automatons here.

Brian Selznick not only weaves a fascinating plot of mystery, history, and movie-making, but he captures the reader with his amazing illustrations that are able to tell a story on their own.

Let me know if you want to borrow this one--it will be sitting on my highest bookshelf along with all of my other prized books where the dog can't mistake it for a chew toy...

Recipe to Read By: French Sable Cookies
Sable cookies are a classic French cookie originating in Normandy. Sable is French for "sand," which refer to the sandy texture of these delicate shortbread-like cookies. I feel very sophisticated baking these and make a point to tell everyone that they are French.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl mix the flour and baking powder and set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix in the dry ingredients until a smooth dough forms.

2. Form the dough into a disk shape or 2-inch diameter log. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. (You can sneak bits of cookie dough while you're waiting for the time to pass.)

3. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out the disk of dough to ¼-inch thickness, and cut out the sables using any shaped cookie cutter. (A fluted one looks very authentic, but the only one I could find was a Christmas tree and it worked fine).

4. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned around the edges. Cool the sables for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. VoilĂ !

Recipe courtesy of
P.S. Thank you Nick G. for donating a copy of this book to the classroom library!


  1. Please tell me there is a "happy ending" for Hugo????

  2. omg!!!! love your blog! i have not been on here in a long time!i am reading hugo again for my book challenge and it has to be a long 1! i remember you read us that book in 2nd grade and i loved it! i also finished the book moon over manifest, i read it twice! it is such a great book. i cried at the end!!! i heard that there was the movie hugo coming out in thearters, i definetly want 2 see it!