The Invention of Hugo Cabret review

Hugo_Cabret_CoverThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Scholastic Press, 2007. 978-0-439-81378-5

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret lives in the secret apartments within a Paris train station maintaining the clocks and hiding a wonderful secret. He is found out by an old man that runs a toy booth in the train station when Hugo is caught stealing toy parts. Why does Hugo need the parts? Why is the small notebook he carries so important to him? But what Hugo doesn’t know is that by meeting the old man in the toy booth, his whole world will change and all of his secrets will be revealed in the most unexpected ways.

Why I picked it up: Partially on recommendations from library school classmates that were excited about the film. Admittedly, I saw the film before I read the book and wanted to save my judgments about the transition from page-to-screen until after I had read the book.

Why I finished it: Part graphic novel, part picture book, Selznick has woven together a novel that reads very much like film storyboards rather than a book. The black and white drawings are intricate and express subtle emotions related to the story and the characters that couldn’t be expressed quite as well with text. There is a certain power behind the pictures that lends itself well to this story about a boy who fixes clocks and an old man that sells toys; it almost felt like I was reading a film rather than a book. I particularly liked the parallels Selznick drew to the lives of the characters and the clocks: clocks have exactly the number of pieces they need to run and each piece has a specific purpose, just as each of the characters and the reader have a purpose in the world around them/us. At its heart, the story is about how people can be connected in unexpected ways, like the notion that there is six degrees of separation between any two people, and the way in which we can touch someone else’s life. There was a definite pattern of lost-and-found – losing oneself or a part of oneself and finding that passion again with the help of a friend, losing a family and finding another – and the notion that our lives are influenced by our relationships with others. Having read the book, I’m going to give the movie another watching; I think it will give me a greater appreciation of both. 🙂

Other related materials: Hugo (film); Before Hollywood: From Shadow Play to the Silver Screen by Paul Clee; Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick; The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick; The Boy of a Thousand Faces by Brian Selznick; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg; Wonder by R.J. Palacio; The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart & Carson Ellis; The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart & Diana Sudyka;  The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster


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