Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The book's primary inspiration is the true story of turn-of-the-century French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata. Selznick decided to add automata to the storyline after reading Edison's Eve by Gaby Wood, which tells the story of Edison's attempt to create a talking wind-up doll. Méliès actually had a set of automata, which were either sold or lost. At the end of his life Méliès was broke, even as his films were screening widely in the United States. He did work in a toy booth in a Paris railway station, hence the setting. Selznick drew Méliès's real door in the book.

This book was a special experience, not only because of its lovely story, but especially because of the way the story was told. The author himself described his book as "not 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". And indeed, it is a combination of all these things. It's nothing I've seen before, but from the first time I hold the book in my hand I was sure I was going to love it. And I did!

First of all, the illustration! They are incredibly beautiful. They are very atmospheric when depicting scenes of Paris. It feels like you are really there. You can feel the crispy snow under your feet, you can breath in the icy winter air. 
And when it comes to pictures showing the characters, it's amazing how well several emotions were captured. Everything is very subtle but tense at the same time. I was really amazed.

The story itself is about Hugo, an orphan, and a few other people whose paths are just about to collide and so create a wonderful book full of despair and fear, but also full of hope and love and tenderness. But most of all, this is about dreams we people have and about what tragedy it is when we lose them.

“Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do... Maybe it's the same with people," Hugo continued. "If you lose your purpose... it's like you're broken.”  

It was a wonderful book from the first page to the last one. I recommend this to anyone who has dreams and wants to follow them. 

“Like a mermaid rising from an ocean of paper, the girl emerged across the room.”




Ula (Blog of Erised) said...

I loved the movie, I was a bit sad I found out about the book later. I have to read it! :)

Petra said...

I only found out about the movie while I was reading the book.
You should get the book, it's really beautiful! :)

DMS said...

I love this book! I am currently reading it to my class of 5th graders. I took pictures of each drawing and display them on the SmartBoard as we read. What a magical story. I really enjoyed your review of this book! The movie is a little different, but still enjoyable. :)

Petra said...

I hope they all like the book? :)

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