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Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

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The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a children’s novel taking place at the turn of the 20th Century in Paris, France. We checked this book out from the library for my seven-year-old daughter to read, but I stayed up half a night reading it—and finished the next morning.

Twelve-year-old Hugo shoulders a lot of responsibility for his age. His parents are dead and his caretaker is his drunkard uncle, tender to the train station’s clocks, which one day simply disappears.

Son of a watchmaker, Hugo, who loves to tinker with mechanical toys, takes it upon himself to maintain the clocks while hiding in the hidden world of the train station. One day he finds an automaton, a mechanical man, cherished by his late father. Hugo restores the toy using his father’s notebook as a reference, and he gets his parts by stealing them from the old man who owns a toy kiosk in the station.

Turns out that old man is actually a cinematic giant—Georges Méliès–who made Hugo’s father favorite film. And that is just the start of the story.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a unique book. It’s not quite a book, not quite a graphic novel, but an amalgamation of the two in which a few pages of text are followed by several pages of pictures, which, instead of illustrating what one just read, move the story forward .

While this book is targeted towards the young, anyone young at heart would enjoy it, especially movie buffs, as Georges Méliès plays a significant part in this tale. Part folktale, part fantasy, part history book with magnificent drawing and photographs of old films, The Invention of Hugo Cabret defies categorization. Add a boy, a girl, an automaton, toys, a key, clocks, train station, and a one-eyed man and what you get is a fantastic fable which is simple yet complex and somewhat bizarre.

My favorite aspect of the book is the homage to silent films, not only using context, but the rich illustrations–all black and white–which reminds one more of movie stills than graphic novels.

While The Invention of Hugo Cabret is relatively long (it comes in at a whopping 533 pages), it is a short read; the text pages are short and easy to read and most of the book is comprised of the wonderful pictures mentioned above. I read the whole book in a day, and even though I borrowed this book from the library, I am seriously thinking about buying a copy of this fabulous work of art.

  • 533 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439813786

Buy this book in paper format.


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