Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

September 10, 2012
Article first published as Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick on Blogcritics.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a children’s novel taking place on the turn of the century in Paris, France. We took this book out for my daughter (7) to read, but I stayed up half a night reading it – and finished the next morning.

  • 533 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439813786

Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My rating for The Invention of Hugo Cabret – 5
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The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Book Website) by Brian Selznick is a very unique book. Not quite a book, not quite a graphic novel, but an amalgamation of the two where a few pages of text are followed by several pages of pictures which move the story forward instead of illustrating what one just read about.

While this book is targeted towards the young, anyone young at heart would enjoy it and especially movie buffs as Georges Méliès plays a significant part in this tale. Part folk tale, part fantasy, part history book with magnificent drawings and photographs of old films this book defies categorization. Add a boy, a girl, 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 most favorite aspect of the book as 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 book 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 the wonderful pictures mentioned above – I read the whole book in a day. Even though I borrowed this book from the library, I am seriously thinking about buying a copy of this fabulous work of art.

So tell me, which book of your children do you like the best?

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, which was cherished by his late father.  Hugo restores the toy using his father’s notebook as a reference, 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 who made Hugo’s father favorite film – Georges Méliès.
And that is just the start of the story.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book from the local library
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  • Okie September 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I really really enjoyed this book. I think in many ways I liked it more than my kids. I attribute that to me having a greater appreciation for the historical and meta aspects of the book. I loved the way it played with and combined the medium of graphic novel and literary novel. I really enjoyed the artwork as well as the way the overall story tied in to the history of motion pictures.

    Stepping away from the book, the plot and characters are somewhat simplistic and by themselves not terribly inspiring. But as a whole, I found myself absolutely entranced by the way the pieces came together.

    Love this.

    • Zohar - Man of la Book September 12, 2012 at 7:40 am

      I agree Okie, each individual part might be simplistic, but the package is wonderful.

  • Athira September 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I watched this movie and loved all that tribute to silent films. I have to read the book at some point.

  • Spangle March 8, 2013 at 7:27 am

    I have seen the film ‘Hugo’ and never realised that it orginally came from a book. Some people might not like the film, but I thought that it was charming and, because because I’m a bit of a film history geek, really interesting too. I will have to try and get hold of a copy of this book.

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