Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

Synopsis from Goodreads.
Caldecott Honor artist Brian Selznick’s has 284 pencil drawings and actual photos (an old train engine falling from upper story to street below, Harold Lloyd in “Safety Lost”, film stills) basing his story on facts. Automatons who could draw pictures, write poems, and sign the maker’s name Maillardet, really existed, neglected in a museum. George Méliès, 1861 magician turned film-maker, son of shoemaker-magnate, built his own camera Kinétographe, and was rediscovered in 1926 working at his Gare Montparness railroad station toy kiosk. Fiction: orphan clock-winder 1931 Paris lad Hugo steals to eat and repair robot from father’s notebook, until he meets Méliès’ pretty god-daughter Isabelle accompanied by helpful film student Etienne. An unusual blend of graphic novel and history lesson results.













You may wonder why I am posting so many pictures of this book for my review.
“Jo!” I hear you cry. “Where are the words?”
And I will reply:
“Exactly. Where are the words?”

I’m being clever and smart and illustrating my only problem I had with this book in my review.

Does that make sense?
Want me to use some more italics?
Alright, fine. I’ll keep my italics to myself, shall I?

I loved the illustrations in this book. I could quite happily get lost within them and look at them all day. In fact, I’m going to recruit Mr Selznick to join Jim Kay, Kei Acedera, Craig Thompson and Quentin Blake to paint every wall in my house.
They were absolutely stunning and fit perfectly with the book’s setting and the whimsical feeling of the story.

But, well, there wasn’t much of a story and I couldn’t help being a little bit disappointed because I thought I was going to have my socks blown off.
However, what story there was was absolutely spectacular.
While I was at uni, I studied both English Lit and Film studies, so film will always have a special place in my heart… especially the earlier ones. Looking at the pictures of the films from the dawn of cinema brought back some really great memories of studying them. It felt like I was back in my university’s library, watching French black and white films on the video players, wearing a pair of rather fetching headphones that took about six minutes to detangle from my hair.
Actually, the main reason why I picked this book up at all was because I saw the trailer for the film (directed by Martin Scorsese) and I was completely enchanted. And, if that wasn’t all, I did my dissertation on Scorsese. Coincidence? Probably. I think not.
So that was lovely.
And so was this book, please don’t get me wrong. I think I had just set my expectations a little too high.
The best way I can describe it is a love letter to art, film and magic.
I just wish that ‘story’ had received just a bit more than a ps at the end.


4 thoughts on “Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

  1. Nice review, Jo! Many of your thoughts overlap with mine, because I too, thought the visuals were much more impressive than the actual story. (And I don’t about you, but I found that the facial features of Hugo oddly similar to Isabelle’s. I’m nitpicky about these small details, unfortunately).

    And the film is BRILLIANT, like everyone says. Did you see it, Jo?

    Oh, and I love the cinema and black and white films too. :) Sunset Boulevard and The Seventh Seal include some of my favourites…

    • Thanks Leanne! Yeah, I thought that too. It was a bit weird.

      And no, I haven’t seen the film yet. I have a copy of it though! I’m hoping to get round to it this weekend maybe! Really looking forward to it. :)

  2. I know what you mean about the pictures being the main point of the book instead of the story. I think I really liked this one because of the unusual format used. Also, it’s such an easy read and the pages just flew by when I picked this up. I haven’t seen the movie though but I heard that it’s good. And I also have a copy of Wonderstruck that I’ve been meaning to read.

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