The Invention of Hugo Cabret Hardcover – Mar 1 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 favourite 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 Im an illustrator myself, Ive 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 wasnt 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.
Brian Selznick on a "Deleted Scene" from The Invention of Hugo Cabret
This is a finished drawing that I had to cut from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I was still rewriting the book when I had to begin the final art. There was originally a scene in the story where this character, Étienne, is working in a camera shop. On one of my research trips to Paris I spent an entire day visiting old camera shops and photographing cameras from the 1930's and earlier, as well as the facades of the shops themselves. I researched original French camera posters and made sure that the counter and the shelves were accurate to the time period. I did all the drawings in the book at 1/4 scale, so they were very small and I often had to use a magnifying glass to help me see what I was drawing. After I finished this drawing I continued to rewrite, and for various reasons I realized that I needed to move this scene from the camera shop to the French Film Academy, which meant that I had to cut this picture. I tried really hard to find ANOTHER moment when I could have Étienne in a camera shop, but, as painful as it was, I knew the picture had to go. I'm glad to see it up on the Amazon website because otherwise no one would have ever seen all those tiny cameras I researched and drew so carefully!
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.)
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Top Customer Reviews
The Invention of Hugo Cabret delivers a whole new kind of pager turner, one where you not only want to see what happens next . . . but where the act of turning the page often gives you powerful glimpses into the story. How? Hand-drawn images tell a story in motion using many motion picture techniques (close-ups, fades, and pans). A sequence of images might go on for 40 pages (as the opening sequence does) before providing any dialogue. Unlike a graphic novel, there is no dialog or narration on the images. Since you don't know if the next turn of a page will reveal an image or text, you also have that extra dimension of surprise. The other difference from the traditional page turner is that this book won't take you that long to read. It's more like the duration of a motion picture than of reading a 525 page novel. So don't let the book's bulk intimidate you.
The story takes place in the early days of the Depression in Paris. Hugo Cabret is a 12-year-old boy who loses his parents and is taken in by his uncle, a timekeeper in a railway station. The uncle makes Hugo do all of the work, but won't even feed Hugo who has to turn to stealing in order to eat. When the uncle disappears, Hugo is left to fend for himself. But Hugo has a dream. He will repair an automaton (an early type of robot) that he rescued from a museum fire. Part of his thievery is aimed at taking parts from a tiny toy store in the station to help rebuild the automaton. One day Hugo is caught! That capture sets new wheels in motion that will change the lives of the key characters permanently.Read more ›
The characters are engaging, especially Hugo. I felt so bad for him and his impossible situation, his grasping at straws to find a connection with his father. Kids will be rooting for him, wanting him to overcome all of the unfair things in his life. He is clever and sharp, as well as innovative and passionate.
Isabelle is a good foil for Hugo, a young girl, also smart, but in a different way. The dynamic of their friendship seems real to me, from the way they get along to the way they fight.
George Melies is the old man and antagonist of the book,. Although he is mean to Hugo, he is shrouded in mystery, a mystery that the children are eager to solve.
The fictional story of Hugo intermingles with historical France of the 1930s and the history of film. This is done well, with the pictures as guides. I loved the mingling of the real history of the film and culture of France with the fictional story of Hugo.
The clockwork and automaton part of the plot will really appeal to the imagination and to those who are mechanically inclined or who like steampunk novels. This, combined with the illustrations, is so cool and vivid.
And then there is the ever true underlying message of the book - follow your dreams, this is the way to happiness and fulfillment.Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
Brilliant. Kids loved it, and were so drawn into the story they almost made me stop reading when the tension got to its peak... but they prevailed.Published 12 months ago by blarger
I read it over and over (adult). Kids aren't into it so much (primary-junior grades). A magical book.Published 20 months ago by evintage
I might be bias as a film graduate, but I absolutely loved this book. The first page asked to "picture yourselves sitting in the darkness, like the beginning of a movie"... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Book Cupid
I loved the story, but particularly the pictures in the book. They add so much to the story and it's obvious that the author spent a lot of time making them... Read morePublished on June 29 2014 by Fleur
By now you know what you are about to purchase. However I am not so sure I was. I have to confess I did not know of this book until I saw the trailer for the movie. Read morePublished on Dec 4 2013 by Bernie
My kids have read this many many times. That must be the true gage of an awesome book!!!
Amazon requires more words for a review; not necessary, here.
Arrived in record time. The book was exactly what I wanted. Much easier than driving to a store to look for it!Published on Dec 30 2012 by Catherine Munn
I enjoyed this comic-book novel so much that I decided to buy a copy for my son. It is a tale that, like a never-ending story, takes the reader on a journey through time and space... Read morePublished on April 6 2012 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
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