11 December 2009

Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Title:  The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznik
Published: 2007  Pages: 526
Genre: Children's

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

Plot Synopsis
Hugo Cabret, apprentice clockmaker, sometimes thief, machinist, and wannabe magician, has an obsession. An automata, found broken in a museum attic, may hold the answers to his universe, but first Hugo has to fix it.  His obsession leads him to Georges Melies, the magician of early film.

My Thoughts
I have never experienced a book like this before.  It is not an illustrated book: the images do not accompany the story; they help tell the story.  It is not a graphic novel: the text and images are separated from each other. What it actually is, I do not know, but I would like to see more of it in children's literature.

The images are a mix of pencil drawings of the story's characters and events and screenshots from Melies' films.  The artwork is intricate even as it is simple, and I was continually impressed by the detail offered. The choice of what to visually represent was both appropriate and unique.

Being a film instructor, I loved the inclusion of Melies, and the mention of other early film bigwigs such as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Jean Renoir.  This book could be a wonderful jumping off point for kids to explore the world of film outside of contemporary blockbusters.  It could spark or renew in them the connection between the big screen and the world of dreams. I'm even considering adding this book to my film course.

I read the book in a little over two hours one evening, and I very much enjoyed the experience.  It was unique, entertaining, and informative. Overall, I think the combination of images and text makes this a wonderful book for a young reader - or an imaginative older one.

Memorable Scene:  One series of images represents the drawings of Melies that Hugo and Isabelle find locked away. Light-exploding heads, fantastical beasts, mermaids, men popping out of ringed planets, knights riding fish, butterfly women, and flames grace the pages in a beautiful menagerie of dream scenes.

Memorable Quote: If you've ever wondered where your dreams come from when you go to sleep at night,  just look around.  This is where they are made. ~said to a young boy in a film studio

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know!

5 Minutes for Books; At Home with Books; Puss Reboots; Rebecca Reads; Becky's Book Reviews; Rhapsody in Books; The Bluestocking Society; Just One More Page; Books & Other Thoughts;  

Question:  What do you think of books told partially or primarily in pictures?  Do you have any recommendations for other books like this?


  1. This IS an amazing book. My daughter has it, and we've all read it. It is hard to find words to describe actually.

  2. This sounds really fascinating. I'm going to have to be on the lookout for it.

  3. I tried to read this a few months ago and got frustrated - I think it was just my reading mood at the time. I might have to give it another try.

  4. I thought the format of this book was fantastic. I think also that it works just fine without knowing about Georges Melies, so it can be read on two levels.

  5. This looks amazing! I wonder whether my son would like it ... I think I would.

  6. Huh. I've seen this book in the bookstores forever, even picked it up, but like you I wasn't sure exactly what it was. Now, after your review, I may give it a go!

    And just as an aside, my hubby and I work in the film business up here in Canada! I'm a 3rd AD, and he is a focus puller and up and coming camera op. We work on the US productions that come to Alberta most of the time, and sometimes Canadian MOW's and series.

    I am also an instructor of a work shop at a college here teaching the required introductory course (for entry into the unions and guilds) called Film Production Workshop.

    Just neat to "meet" a fellow film person!

  7. Sandy - I agree. Writing the review was difficult, and it still doesn't say exactly how I felt about the book.

    Amanda - You should give it a try. I consider it a step towards reading The Arrival.

    Elizabeth - I can definitely see how you'd have to be in the right mood to read it.

    Rhapsody - I agree. It's a nice introduction to film studies, but it certainly doesn't have to be.

    Steph - You should definitely give it a try. It was a unique experience for me.

    Lisa - That is awesome! You're the first film person I've met through blogging.

  8. Thank you for the link to my review. I lost a weekend to reading the book. It was such a wonderful experience.


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