Hugo, Hugo Cabret

The Movie and Book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I am so excited to see the movie. I hear that it’s great! A factoid that I just learned: Brian Selznick is the grandson of Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick. Director Martin Scorsese knew about this relationship and it piqued his interest even more in the Caldecott award-winning book. I have to say that I thought his illustrations were amazing and reminiscent of  the sketches of scenes blocked out by old-time directors like Alfred Hitchcock. Do you think there is a real cinematic quality to the way he sequences the illustrations? And what did you think of the movie?


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My sister sent me this massive tome for my youngest’s third birthday.  I was surprised; he can’t read yet and this chapter and picture book can rival a thick Harry Potter.  But my sister said, “No, no…it’s supposed to be this really cool chapter book that is mostly illustrations.”  I glanced through it and it sat on the back burner bookshelf.

I took it out a few months ago, and it sat on my bedside table for another two months.  The sheer weight of the book was daunting.  Finally, I was in a rush to pack up for my jam-packed Tuesdays when I drive my kids around dropping off one to gymnastics then sprinting to the flute lesson…but secretly I love this day.  The flute lesson is a little island of quiet time; 30 minutes to read a book (which is usually why I blog on a book review on Tuesdays).  So, I grabbed this book because I was in a rush and my pile was down to two books, and what a pleasure it was to read this book!

I call The Invention of Hugo Cabret a children’s literature version of The Phantom of the Opera.  They are both set in Paris; Hugo is set around 1931.  They both sneak around in hidden canals and passageways that they know like that back of their hand.  And They both have deep, dark secrets from the past.  Hugo is almost a book within a book.  The book IS actually mostly illustrations (284!) , and much like the picture books Flotsam or Tuesday by David Weisner, the illustrations tell their own story.  There is also the story which is a fair amount of text, but part of it is broken up by pages and pages of illustrations and some of the story pages have only a scant paragraph.

The story of Hugo, itself, is a mystery that unwinds, layer by layer, into a deeply interconnecting and interesting story weaving the history of motion pictures with themes of magic, believing, and the power of friendships.  It’s really a lovely and riveting story.

The sweet spot for this book would be 3-5th graders, particularly reluctant boy readers.  Don’t let the thickness of the book deter your reader and this might be a perfect story to read together for reluctant readers.  This book won a slew of awards including Finalist for the National Book Award.

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Ann

    I am dying to read this one partially because it looks cool but also because he is a RISD grad (as am I) but waiting until my kids are a little older. I might just go ahead and read it myself like you did! Thanks for the review!

    • To Ann,
      I really, really enjoyed the book which I read for myself but I can’t wait to read it with my son. And we are so excited that he’s a RISD grad because my oldest has decided she would love to attend RISD. The students are so incredibly talented in such a wide range. Grace Lin is also a RISD grad. And David Weisner. I think the list goes on and on, but that is all that I know.

  2. Ann

    …2 more (that I can think of) Chris Van Allsburg, (Polar Express) & David Macaulay (The Way Things Work series); Grace Lin is wonderful! Your daughter will love RISD!

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