Happy Birthday, Brian Selznick - July 14
Before I can respond, it is often followed up with, "You will feature authors that write chapter books when your children get older, right?"
It is true that, to this point in our author celebrations, almost all of the authors and illustrators we have celebrated create picture books. It is important to note that a few of the authors and illustrators have written and illustrated chapter books in addition to their picture books. (John Rocco comes to mind and his birthday was July 9!).
Yet, in those cases we still featured the picture books in our celebrations.
The truth is I do not know what the future holds for our birthday celebrations. My oldest daughter is ten years old. She is a spirited, enthusiastic, and avid reader. She devours chapter books! My son is seven and has started to dip into chapter books himself. Yet, I am trying to hold my children into the world of picture books as long as I can.
This month something completely new happened for our family and it involved a CHAPTER BOOK!
My oldest daughter was rereading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick for the second time. After she finished, I picked it up and started reading. I was curious to read this 500+ page chapter book that was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2008, an award usually given to a picture book. I finished the book within twenty-four hours which is amazing for me. I am a picture-book-guy through and through. The story was excellent. It was fast-paced and I loved that there were well over 100 full-page illustrations in the book.
My daughter and I stayed up late one night to watch Hugo, the movie based on the book. She fell asleep before the end, but I really enjoyed it. The next day, I saw on my author birthday calendar that Brian Selznick's birthday was in July. I wondered, Could I pull off a family reading experience to bring this chapter book to life? My oldest son had been asking about the book and knew that his sister got to stay up late to watch the movie. Could it work? If any chapter book would work, it would be The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.
Brian Selznick is the author-illustrator of Wonderstruck and The Boy of a Thousand Faces. He has also illustrated numerous chapter books for Andrew Clements (Frindle, Lunch Money, The School Story, The Janitor's Boy, and The Laundry News) and Ann M. Martin (The Doll People, The Meanest Doll in the World, and The Runaway Dolls). As a child, Brian's parents "were very supportive" of his interest in drawing and enrolled him in many art classes outside of school. In high school he became known as the "kid who could paint," but became "annoyed" when people suggested he should be a children's book illustrator. His artistic talents led him to major in illustration at Rhode Island School of Design while also taking classes at Brown University, where he gained experience in theater and set design. However, he failed to get into graduate school for set design. So, he started traveling and while on his travels he began creating stories with words and pictures. It dawned on him that maybe the people in high school were right -- maybe he should be a children's book illustrator. (Sources Reading Rockets and Teaching Books).
It didn't take long for Brian to publish his first book. He got a job working at the children's book store, Eeyore's Books for Children in New York. While working at the store, he showed his manager a story he wrote about a child who meets Houdini. His manager passed it along to someone he knew at RandomHouse and they later agreed to publish his first book, The Houdini Box (1991). During the rest of the 1990s Brian illustrated numerous books for other authors including Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan.
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley. To research this book Brian traveled to London to view the Hawkins dinosaurs which are still on display in Crystal Palace Park. "I got permission to go onto the island and I got to climb into the dinosaurs and look out the dinosaur's mouth and see where Waterhouse Hawkins had signed his name. And so I was very aware of the smells of it and the feel of it and the essence of the place." (Reading Rockets).
Brian's extensive research also led to the success of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. He was completely absorbed in old movies and photographs when he discovered the filmmaker George Méiliès and his movie Trip to the Moon. "I had wanted to do a story about a kid who meets George Méiliès, the way Victor met Houdini in my first book. But I didn't have a plot and I didn't have a kid character. All I had was the idea of a kid meeting Méiliès. That premise sat in my head for 15-18 years." (Teaching Books).
Then, he read Edison's Eve by Gabby Wood about the history of automata (a moving mechanical device that has human-like features). He learned in this book that George Méiliès collected automata and later donated his collection to a museum where they were thrown out. All of these ideas and stories grew into The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a story about a boy named Hugo who lives in a train station, rescues and repairs an automaton, and learns that broken machines and people who have lost their purpose in life have much in common.
Our author birthday celebration for Brian Selznick started with a Google search; "automaton museum in Ohio." I didn't find a place to take my children in Ohio, but I did find a place that was close enough to make it happen.
|A road trip inspired by The Invention of Hugo Cabret. At the time, my daughter had read Hugo Cabret twice and I was reading it for the second time to my two boys. We read the first half of the book before we left and then read about four chapters from the second half of the book while traveling to our destination.|
|Hugo brought us to the great state of Michigan.|
|I only gave my children two clues about where we were going; automaton and coins. Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum is in Farmington Hills, Michigan and it is home to 5,000 square feet of vintage coin-op machines, unusual items and oddities, and automaton!|
|We wouldn't have come here without this book!|
|Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum is amazing! There is stuff to look at from floor to ceiling (especially the ceiling!)|
|I loved these old posters of magicians.|
|After we walked around the whole place, my kids said, "This isn't a museum. This is an arcade!" I brought lots of quarters for each of them to spend on the games and attractions of their choice.|
|My son spent his first quarters on a fortune telling machine.|
|We tried all the coin-operated automaton, too. This one was a circus with a high-wire act and three hungry lions!|
|This skeleton was trying to jack-hammer his way off his pedestal.|
|There were automaton everywhere. It was a museum after all.|
|This automaton was a levitating magician.|
|This magician made a ball disappear and then it appeared inside his mouth.|
|Yet, another automaton of a flying machine.|
|My daughter said, "They are singing The Muffin Man."|
|In addition to the automaton and the vintage coin-op machines there were modern games for my children to enjoy. My son loved the basketball game. He won 10 tickets for his score in this game!|
|My daughter loved the mini-carousel.|
|At the end, they got to exchange their tickets for prizes.|
|Since I had Hugo Cabret on my mind, I mistakenly read this sign at first.|
|We had a great "time" at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum. It was worth the trip from Ohio, and it was the perfect place to bring to life The Invention of Hugo Cabret. All of my children now have the word "automaton" in their vocabulary.|
Are you ready for another book by Brian Selznick? It sounds like another great book is on its way! The Marvels is available September 15, 2015! Pre-order it today!
1. Invention of Hugo Cabret Website
2. Video interviews - Reading Rockets
3. Text interviews - IndieBound, Library of Congress, Seven Impossible Things Blog, Publisher's Weekly, CNN, TeachingBooks
4. Audio interviews - WNYC, NPR (2007), NPR (2011), WBEZ
5. Wonderstruck Website
6. Biography - NCCIL
7. Teaching with Brian Selznick's books - Scholastic
8. Hugo Movie Website