Plot: Hugo Cabret is the orphaned son of a clockmaker living in the walls of a train station in Paris in 1931. All that remains of his father is his last project: an automaton of a writing man. He spends his days maintaining the station’s clocks and stealing the pieces he needs to fix the automaton. But he would never have suspected that the machine and the message that it holds will lead him to the mysterious Georges Melies, one of the first great filmmakers.
Selznick has created a beautiful and inovative graphic novel (and by that I mean a novel with important visual elements, not a comic). The Invention of Hugo Cabret is so much more than than an illustrated novel: Selznick’s images don’t simply illustrate the text but add to it. He continues the written narrative through his striking and detailed black and white images. This format is perfect for a novel about early cinema: each image looks like a shot in a sequence (indeed, flipping through the pages is great fun) and the text reminds me of the title cards in silent film.
Hugo is a fascinating character: he is skilled, intelligent and distrustful of others and he has had a remarkably hard life. I enjoyed reading about him and the people he encounters, not least of which Georges Melies. There are mysteries, secrets and chases a plenty. But the real pleasure for me was the wonderful and detailed history about films, magicians and automatons and the ways in which Selznick brings them all together.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a quick, engaging read. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. There is absolutely nothing supernatural about this book and yet it possesses a rare magic sure to enchant.
Also check out Selznick’s second novel, Wonderstruck, which is written in the same style.
Also check out the movie trailer:
Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic Press