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The Invention of Hugo Cabret Hardcover – January 30, 2007
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Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, 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, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the 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 from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.
A Letter from Brian Selznick
When I was a kid, two of my favorite books were by an amazing man named Remy Charlip. Fortunately and Thirteen fascinated me in part because, in both books, the very act of turning the pages plays a pivotal role in telling the story. Each turn reveals something new in a way that builds on the image on the previous page. Now that I’m an illustrator myself, I’ve often thought about this dramatic storytelling device and all of its creative possibilities.
My new book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a 550 page novel in words and pictures. But unlike most novels, the images in my new book don't just illustrate the story; they help tell it. I've used the lessons I learned from Remy Charlip and other masters of the picture book to create something that is not a exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.
I began thinking about this book ten years ago after seeing some of the magical films of Georges Méliès, the father of science-fiction movies. But it wasn’t until I read a book called Edison's Eve: The Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Woods that my story began to come into focus. I discovered that Méliès had a collection of mechanical, wind-up figures (called automata) that were donated to a museum, but which were later destroyed and thrown away. Instantly, I imagined a boy discovering these broken, rusty machines in the garbage, stealing one and attempting to fix it. At that moment, Hugo Cabret was born.
A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting Remy Charlip, and I'm proud to say that we've become friends. Last December he was asking me what I was working on, and as I was describing this book to him, I realized that Remy looks exactly like Georges Méliès. I excitedly asked him to pose as the character in my book, and fortunately, he said yes. So every time you see Méliès in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the person you are really looking at is my dear friend Remy Charlip, who continues to inspire everyone who has the great pleasure of knowing him or seeing his work.
Paris in the 1930's, a thief, a broken machine, a strange girl, a mean old man, and the secrets that tie them all together... Welcome to The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
More from Brian Selznick
The Boy of a Thousand Faces
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Here is a true masterpiece—an artful blending of narrative, illustration and cinematic technique, for a story as tantalizing as it is touching.Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo lives in the walls of a Paris train station at the turn of the 20th century, where he tends to the clocks and filches what he needs to survive. Hugo's recently deceased father, a clockmaker, worked in a museum where he discovered an automaton: a human-like figure seated at a desk, pen in hand, as if ready to deliver a message. After his father showed Hugo the robot, the boy became just as obsessed with getting the automaton to function as his father had been, and the man gave his son one of the notebooks he used to record the automaton's inner workings. The plot grows as intricate as the robot's gears and mechanisms [...] To Selznick's credit, the coincidences all feel carefully orchestrated; epiphany after epiphany occurs before the book comes to its sumptuous, glorious end. Selznick hints at the toymaker's hidden identity [...] through impressive use of meticulous charcoal drawings that grow or shrink against black backdrops, in pages-long sequences. They display the same item in increasingly tight focus or pan across scenes the way a camera might. The plot ultimately has much to do with the history of the movies, and Selznick's genius lies in his expert use of such a visual style to spotlight the role of this highly visual media. A standout achievement. Ages 9-12. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
The pages seem thicker than normal. They're framed in black, giving the book a quiet, almost magical feel.
The only drawback, but I cannot in good conscience take away stars, is that many of the pictures are two-pages and to see them well, you must break the spine of the book... and even then, you must live with its seam. I suppose the only way around this would be to shrink the pictures or enlarge the book... but that might steal some of the magic. So... there you have it. We are happy and this will be a much-loved book with a broken spine. We'd rather it be worn out, though, than never read at all.
Hugo was orphaned twice. When his father was killed in a fire in his workshop working on a device Hugo wanted him to fix, Hugo was sent to live with his uncle. Hugo's uncle lived in the train station and was responsible for winding all the clocks twice a day. It wasn't the hardest job in the world, but it took a lot of responsibility so the clocks didn't fall behind and break down. When Hugo's uncle disappears, Hugo takes over the clocks and keeps up the ruse his uncle is still there because he has no other place to go.
Unable to cash his uncle's checks, Hugo is forced to steal his food. He only steals out of necessity, except for toys. Hugo can't resist the toy booth run by the old man, but when he is caught stealing a toy mouse, the old man forces him to fix it. He takes Hugo's notebook- the last thing Hugo has from his father that holds the secrets to fixing the device his father died trying to fix for Hugo- the automaton. Hugo salvaged the automaton from the building where his father was killed, but without the notebook, he will never get the figure to work. When the old man sees Hugo's ability to fix the toy, he puts him to work fixing toys in the shop. By day Hugo works in the shop, but night he works on the automaton. It is a busy life, but Hugo just wants his notebook back. When the old man's goddaughter promises to get it back for him, he doesn't realize the secrets they will uncover together. There is more to the old man than Hugo ever realized, but then again, the old man didn't know Hugo was an orphan living in the train station either.
The beauty of this book, besides the pages and pages of beautiful illustrations, was the ability of those illustrations to tell huge parts of the story. An emergent reader must look at a book and be completely overwhelmed by all those words. Pages and pages of words. So what if half the story was told by a series of illustrations that wordlessly told a beautiful story of a sad boy who finds people who care about him? I love this book for many reasons, but the biggest reason is that I can just see a student who is just starting to read being able to successfully wade through this book in all its bulk (500+ pages) and know they have read a book. Imagine the pride that would come from that student?
So I have to say, I think Selznick is a genius. He created a book that is not only beautiful, but one that can appeal to even the most low-skilled students. I think it is an important book for any children's library or classroom, especially for students with learning disabilities. The illustrations can emote with little effort and will provide tons of material for discussions. You can have students write the dialogue or describe the illustrations as an activity. If a student is creative, you can have them illustrate the portions of the book that aren't already illustrated. The opportunities are limitless.
From Sam (age 8):
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an amazing adventure that kids want to read all night. They will go on an awesome and cool adventure!