Yes, you heard right--Brian Selznick! I had the opportunity to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret as an advance reading copy before it came out. I loved it at once. The story is new and fascinating, the illustrations gorgeous. The style is unlike anything ever done, and I remember thinking at the time, "Good for Brian Selznick for daring something so different, and good for Scholastic for supporting him. I hope this pays off."
Ha. Has there ever been such a decorated children's novel? Let me list some honors off the top of my head:
- Caldecott Medal
- National Book Award Finalist
- Quills Award
- Al Roker pick
- NYT Best seller (for months and months)
- Book Sense Book of the Year
- Film option to Martin Scorsese
And all much deserved. Not only is this a terrific book that draws in avid readers and reluctant readers alike, its author is a stand-up, darn fine, terrific fella. And cute too. (He fell hard for Maggie at age two months. For the last time, Brian, no, you can't take her home with you!) And here is our guest of honor, the man with the golden hand.
ME: Hugo Cabret is a completely novel novel. The early, silent movies were also very novel, and sometimes frightening to viewers who had never seen one before, as you explained in the story. I love that you told a story that in part is about a new art form and you tell it in a new medium using art. I'm going around and around.... What I mean to say is, how much did the subject matter influence the form of your book or did the silent movie-esque illustrations crop up organically?
BS: The form of the book and the content of the book kind of developed together. I knew I wanted to make a story about Georges Melies, who in 1902 made the first science fiction film A Trip to the Moon, and the more I learned about him, and the more movies I watched, the more the story came together. I realized I could make the book read like a movie and suddenly the idea of filling the book with "mini silent movies" made alot of sense. I also like the idea that I'm using a new way to tell a story about an old way of telling stories that at the time was itself a new way. I just saw Gypsy on Broadway, and in one sense it's about the death of Vaudeville, but when Gypsy was created it told this story in an incredible new way with songs that revealed the psychology of the characters. I would hope that Hugo could be a little bit like that, using something new to talk about something old, so that it's all made modern and relevent to the audience. Does that make sense??
[Yes! And how cool.]
If there were two rugby teams, one made up of Caldecott winners, the other of Newbery winners, which team would win and why? What if they were having a dance-off?
This is a very important question and I'm glad you asked. We must remember that the Newbery award was first given in 1921 and the Caldecott was first given in 1938, so many of the players would be very very old. In fact, some of the players would probably be dead, which in general slows people down quite a bit. This would make the Rugby game quite challenging, and I'd say the same goes for the dance-off.
Or we can look at it another way. I know that not all Caldecott winning books have words, and not all Newbery winning books have pictures, but the goal of a good picture book is usually to have the words and the pictures work perfectly together, each bringing something to the story that the other can not. If we accept this as true, then perhaps what we'd have is a perfect tie on the Rugby field and a beautiful unending magically choreographed dance-off.
Either that or the Caldecott winners would kick the Newbery winners butts.
[Unless the Newbery Honor winners got involved, 'cause we can jitterbug. A very important skill in rugby.]
I know illustrators who say they have boxes and boxes of their art and don't know what to do with it. What do you do with yours? Do you throw it away? Sell it? Put it on your walls? Give it to friends? Keep it in a storage unit?
I don't throw anything away. I have all my art stored in flat files (long thin flat drawers) in my studio. I am running out of room and am trying to figure out where I can put more flat files in my already crowded apartment.
[I could help store some for you...on my walls.]
Do you find your creative process is much different when writing than when drawing?
All my ideas start as stories. The writing always comes first when I'm writing and drawing, and I find it much harder to put together a story than to work on the illustrations. It's always nice to illustrate someone else's story because I don't have to think up the story myself. But there's always the challenge of figuring out how exactly the pictures will enhance the story, so they don't just repeat all the information that's already in the text.
Is there a question you've never been asked that you've been waiting for?
In fact, I've been waiting for someone to ask me "Is there a question you've never been asked that you've been waiting for?" Now, at last, I won't have to wait anymore. Thank you for finally asking it.
Hooray! That's what we're here for at squeetus. Thank you, Brian. Can't wait to see what you come up with next. No pressure or anything...