Sunday, November 15, 2009

BOOK: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, 525 pages
: a novel in words and pictures

4 Month Challenge: a book set in France; Caldecott Medal winner 2008

This was just a wonderful afternoon read, and the children are grabbing for it as well. The perfect blend of mysterious story, amazing pictures - I kept imagining that my fingers were going to be covered in pencil smudges. I've been reading raves about this book for a few years already. I confess, the cover made me think of a hot air balloon, and made me think it would be like the Wizard of Oz. I have no particular reason for thinking this, just poorly judging a book by its cover. I picked up a hardback version at the second hand bookstore without the cover leaf, so I was not biased by my cover concerns. The black cover actually fits the book better, with its dark mood.

Instead of Wizard of Oz, this is more reminiscent of The Hunchback of Notre Dame for feel, and sometimes I forgot that it was set in the 1930s. Hugo is living in the back alleys of the Paris train station, on his own like some waif from Les Miserables. He looks after the clocks after his uncle disappears. He has an automan his father left him that he is trying to fix. He meets up with a little girl, and her adopted family. The automan is the connecting idea and the mystery. The history of movies is also a part of the story, in a lovely tribute to the real filmmaker, Georges Melies.

The pictures were amazing and moved the story along in a way that the writing couldn't, but conversely, the pictures alone wouldn't have worked. Selznick has made a most memorable book for children and adults alike. Read it. I'd lend you mine, but the two oldest are fighting over who gets to read it first.


  1. Selznick is truly gifted!! I loved this book and it never stays on the middle school library shelves for long!

  2. This sounds intriguing! I love the fact that Staci can't keep it on the shelves.

  3. I really liked this book. I bought it back when it first came out entirely by impulse. So glad I did!

  4. Oh, I loved this so much too! I hope he does something similar again, very unique blend of text and pictures.

  5. I thought this book was really neat - I love it when people experiment with words and pictures. I can't wait to see what else this author's going to do. :)

  6. I thought this was a phenomenal book as well. I loved your imagining your fingers would be covered in pencil smudges! I'm anxious to read another of his books.

    btw -- could you change the author's name in your title to Brian instead of Brain? LOL!

  7. I really, really loved this book, especially the pictures!

  8. staci - it doesn't surprise me that it is signed out a lot. Plus, it feels like you've read a really big book!

    stephanie - it really is as wonderful as everyone says.

    kailana - I'm glad I bought it as well, and I'd read it again.

    nicola - another book would be excellent! His pictures were really amazing.

    jenny - I'm glad I waited to read it, so it will be less time until he writes another book.

    terri - how embarrassing! I've fixed it.
    My hands get smudged when I correct, so it's not that unusual of an event for me.

    michelle - I'm glad my kids were interested in the book as well. I ranked it 5 out of 5 right away, not many books get that immediate rating. Sometimes it takes me some thinking on it afterwards to bump up a rating. But this was right away.

  9. I should give this one a try, it's gotten such positive feedback. I checked it out of the library, opened it, and was just put off by its size and the illustrations. Not that they weren't good illustrations, I just wasn't in the mood for such a different book, I think.

  10. tll - oh, it really was special. I too was put off by the size, but it reads really, really quick. It's one of the appealing points for reluctant readers. English teachers and librarians suggest it for kids who aren't great readers, but can feel like they are carrying around a huge book.

  11. It works its way into my my top 10 books of all time. Love your review.


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