Christy's Reviews > The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
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's review
Jan 18, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: intermediate-picture-book, historical-fiction
Read in January, 2009

What is a picture book? Prior to reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret, my answer to that question would be a beautifully illustrated and hopefully well-written short story with bright, bold colors and captivating language. Brian Selznick redefines this genre of children’s literacy with his Caldecott Medal winning, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. With over 500 pages of written text and black and white drawings, The Invention of Hugo Cabret has forever expanded our perceptions of picture books and children’s literacy.
It is easy to understand why The Invention of Hugo Cabret was selected for the Caldecott Medal. Selznick’s monochromatic illustrations are brilliant. Using a sequence of illustrations, Selznick reveals large portions of the story with no words. The intricate illustrations have movement leading the reader closer to the scene with each page.
Selznick tells a story of an orphan living in a Paris train station. The boy, named Hugo, is keeping secrets. He has a mechanical man, or automaton, that his father discovered in a museum. After his father dies in a fire, Hugo finds the automaton and hides it in the train station. Hugo believes he can get the mechanical man to write a message from his father and he is driven to fix the machine with the help of his father’s notebook. In order to eat and fix the automaton, Hugo has to steal supplies from a toy booth owned by George Melies.
One day, George Melies catches Hugo stealing. It is then that Hugo’s life becomes interwoven with George’s life. Before long, he discovers more and more information leading to George’s past life in the world of cinema. The story is captivating and the illustrations are a masterpiece. This distinguished picture book provides a visual, movie-like experience. It is clearly a significant achievement marked by eminence and individual distinction.
Fascinated with both the story and the illustrations, I had a difficult time putting this book down. It was an easy read due to Selznick’s writing style and the phenomenal illustrations. In spite of this, I do find myself wondering how many children under 14 would actually read this book. The physical size of the book may be daunting to most readers, even though a vast amount of the book is illustrations. In addition, the lack of color may prevent younger readers to give this outstanding piece of literature a chance. Students who do take the time to thoroughly read the text and illustrations will be greatly rewarded.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Karrie (last edited Feb 25, 2009 03:52AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karrie Thanks for this review, Christy. I find myself laboring through Hugo Cabret, and I don't know why. The depth of the pictures is amazing, and they are so simple yet chock full of detail. The writing is very good, too, so I'm not sure why this hasn't gripped me. When I'm reading it I feel like I'm in a foreign film, and given that it takes place in France, that's probably a good thing! Maybe it's because I'm coming off The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which was incredibly intense and gripping.

Your review has given me new resolve to stick with it (I would have to anyway since it's required reading for our class!) I agree with everything you said about it redefining children's literature, even in this age of graphic novels. I'll try to adjust my approach to it, and perhaps I'll see all the intracies that you see.

message 2: by Toby (new) - added it

Toby Perhaps some background knowledge is needed, both for us and for children? The audio version of Hugo (stop a moment to imagine that, an audio version of a book that has won the top award for illustration!) includes a DVD that features Brian Selznick talking about how the book came about, his interest in early film (a family legacy) and in magic, interspersed with illustrations from the book and old photographs. Scholastic must have realized that this audiobook would need some visual support but I think they did a great job of putting Hugo's story into its historical context. And even the audiobook is successful - you can't help but visualize the illustrations as you listen, once you've sen them in print.

Christy Toby,
That is interesting. I cannot imagine an audiobook for Hugo! That being said, I am sure it is informative. I find it fascinating that there is a lot of non-fiction intermixed into the book.

Christy Karrie,
Normally, this type of book would not grab my attention either. I guess the combination of amazing illustrations and storyline just sucked me in!! I found the illustrations gripping probably because they literally moved the story along. I hope it begins to move along for you.

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