January 15, 2008

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Juvenile Fiction
544 pages
2007 Scholastic Press
Finished on 1/8/08
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Quill Award Winner (2007)
National Book Award Finalist (2007)

Book Description (from the author's fabulous website):

ORPHAN, CLOCK KEEPER, AND THIEF, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message all come together...in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

This 526-page book is told in both words and pictures. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things. Each picture (there are nearly three hundred pages of pictures!) takes up an entire double page spread, and the story moves forward because you turn the pages to see the next moment unfold in front of you.

After working several shifts in the Children's section at Barnes & Noble this past holiday season, I decided to make an effort to read at least one Juvenile Fiction selection in order to become more knowledgeable and better equipped to make future recommendations. I'd heard very good things about Selznick's hefty book and decided to start the year off by giving it a read.


What a delightful story! Selznick was inspired to create a book about Georges Méliès after watching the 1902 Méliès film, A Trip to the Moon (the world's first science fiction film). I liked the story well enough, but my real enjoyment lay in the incredible black and white illustrations. They are simply amazing.

This book should appeal to most young readers, as the narrative is compelling yet the pictures keep it from feeling too long and dry. I think it could be a good book for those readers who might struggle with the more lengthy chapter book.

Even if you decide not to read it yourself, do spend some time at Selznick's website. Someone has put a lot of work into it with all the various links. One could easily spend an afternoon lost in Selznick's favorite websites. Pay particular attention to the Intro and Slide Show link. You can watch the opening sequence of drawings here (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link - it's a Flash sequence to which I am unable to link to directly).


  1. I've wanted to read this for awhile. It just won the Caldecott yesterday!

  2. Might it appeal to 7th and 8th graders, or is it too young for that age group? I've admired the cover, and am pleased it is such a good book. Great review.

  3. So glad you enjoyed this one as much as I did. I can't wait to see what Selznick comes up with next!

  4. I've been wanting to read this to my class for some time. In fact, one of the kids brought in her own copy. I'll be sure to look at the web site, too. Thanks!

  5. Haven't read this one yet, but I've sure read a lot of good reviews. One of these days I'm going to get to this one. Great review, Les.

  6. So glad you liked this one too! Like Andi, I can't wait to see what Selznick does next. I really enjoyed this one.

  7. 3m - Thanks for the information about the Caldecott. Now you'll definitely have to read it! :)

    Nan - Well, I'm far past junior high and I enjoyed it. I think it'd be fine for someone of that age. Maybe it could be combined with an extra lecture about Georges Méliès, perhaps showing his film, A Trip to the Moon.

    Andi - Me, too! Do you think it'd work for a 7th or 8th grader?

    Bellezza - Ooh, I'll be interested to hear how your class likes the book.

    Booklogged - It's quite a fast read. You could almost read it at the library, if you don't want to buy a copy.

    Heather - I'm going to look at some of the books Selznick has illustrated. I'm not sure where I heard it, but I think the film rights have been optioned by Steven Spielburg. Wouldn't that be a cool film!

  8. OK, now that it's gotten your seal of approval I think I might venture to read it. I had thought about it last summer but after skimming through, decided against it. Perhaps I'll have to have another look!

  9. This book won the Caldecott Award for children's literature in 08 (which you probably know already, but just in case). I can't wait to read my student's copy!!!

  10. Lesley - I did the same thing last summer. It was one of the employee recommendations at work and I flipped through it, but wasn't terribly interested. A few weeks ago I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did. I honestly think it's the illustrations that make it the wonderful book that it is. The story is ok, but without the artwork, I think I would've been disappointed.

    Bellezza - I can't wait to hear your final thoughts on the book. And I'm also interested to hear how your class likes it.


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