The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Brian Selznick

A Brief Introduction

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a book written about a boy who discovers a drawing that ends up changing his life forever. The setting of the book takes place in Paris, France in 1931.The author Selznick wants you to imagine yourself sitting in the dark, in a movie theatre setting while reading this book so that you can have a life like experience as if you were Hugo.


  • Selznick created this website in a very easy, but organized way. It is very clear the things you are able to access and he thoroughly explains the book and what to expect if you have not previously read it.
  • He explains the setting and what the main events are in the book, but he never gives away the story. He gives enough information to make you want to read the book.
  • The book is a mixture of all different types of books. This 533 page book may seem intimidating to most when they first see it, but the majority of the pages are pictures if not two spread pictures.
  • The page turns throughout this book are very intense because they give the readers suspense as to whats coming next.


"assembly-line automatons"

  • a machine that performs a function according to a predetermined set of coded instructions, especially one capable of a range of programmed responses to different circumstances.

  • used in similes and comparisons to refer to a person who seems to act in a mechanical or unemotional way.

Inspiration For Hugo Cabret

  • Selznick had a big inspiration from the book Edison’s Eve: A Magical Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood.
  • Automaton is the type of machine used to create The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
  • Automata's are mechanical figures that can do things like sing, dance and do other things like write poems and play chess, etc.
  • The book by Gaby Wood was about this collection of automata.
  • The automata in Wood's book was not properly taken care of so they were destroyed and thrown away.
  • Selznick then pictured this young boy finding all these machine pieces that were broken and thrown away, and thats how is idea of Hugo Cabret was created.

Interview with Selznick

This interview done with Brian Selznick talks about how he began drawing and the process of how drawing became such a big part of his life. Art was always something that brought interest to Brians life. Having parents that were super supportive of his art was very important to him and what he chose to do. Having people who were not very helpful along the way, sort of pushed brian to work harder for the things he wanted to prove others wrong. He became an illustration major at Rhode Island School of Design. He never had the intentions or interest in becoming a children's book illustrator. Not getting into the set design graduate program that he wanted to. He decided that it was a sign he wasn't supposed to be a set designer, so he took a break and decided to travel through Europe. The Invention of Hugo Cabret was created after his epiphony after his travels through Europe that he loves to draw, take pictures and write. On his website there is more information you can read through and learn about as far as this novel and others regarding Brian Selznick.

John Shwartz

  • This book review done by Shwarts in The New York Times gives you a great insight on what to expect when reading this book.
  • He informs you with the setting and the plot to the story, without spoiling the ending of the book. The boy in the book is thrilled when he actually gets to meet his idol Harry Houdini and John elaborates on the ups and downs hugo had to go through.
  • The illustrations done in this book are very detailed and intricate.
  • John gives a great example of how Selznick draws the readers attention in. He begins with wanting you to imagine you are in a movie theatre and thats exactly how it feels when you are reading this book.
  • Hugo Cabret has so many different illustrations and each page does such a good job on making you feel as if you are a part of the book. They look so real and they also zoom in and out which give it more of a "real life" feeling while reading. It allows you to follow Hugo and understand what is happening.
  • Johns review is clearly written and mentions that even though Hugo has some troubles throughout his journey, that its life. Things happen, and we all have to live with certain things even when we disagree or feel any emotion towards it.
  • There is a lot of emotion expressed through the young boy in this novel.
  • Throughout Johns review he doesn't express in any way that he is not a fan of this book. He thoroughly states that "our children loved it, and so did we". That in itself should explain the quality of this book.
  • There is definitely a reason this book received the Caldecott award in 2008.

Ana Grilo

  • Although this book received a Caldecott award and gets very good reviews, I found this review by Ana Grilo, who liked the book, but also states what she thinks could have been done differently to improve the outcome of the book.
  • Ana does a great job of explaining the moral of the story and the main concepts and events that happen throughout the journey of this young boy. Ana gives a very detailed description of the novel and a summary of thing that happened, but doesn't give away too much detail, nor ruin the ending.
  • The illustrations and images throughout this novel are a very important part for the audience. Some of the images, Ana believes are too simplistic and that the story doesn't focus enough on the characters in the book.
  • Ana believes that Selznick lacked on their connections and the plight throughout this novel. As this book is known to be magical, she thinks that it is missing that connection, especially on an emotional level from the characters.
  • Like we've talked about in class, it is okay to disagree with the way books are written or the images are placed, etc. but I thought that Ana did it in a very respectful way towards the author. She gives her insight on what she thinks could help improve the book but also states "despite some contrivances the plot comes together perfectly in the end". This shows a sense of maturity when reviewing books as well as showing her appreciation for children's literature.

My Thought Process

Overall I thought this was an amazing book. Like I've mentioned it is very intimidating when you first pick it up, but the illustrations and the plot of the book draw you in so much. It is very appealing to young adults, like myself. It is not a hard or challenging read but it is so detailed through the images that it lets your mind wander. It lets you be creative with your thoughts and what you see happening. I am not too sure as to why Brian only used pencil and no color, but it fits the story line. He lives a hard, challenging life and we are able to watch his journey so clearly. The text used on the pages with writing is clear and interesting to the reader. It gives us a sense of ease when we know what is actually happening in the story. For me it is hard to imagine what is going on without being told the gist of things because I think too deeply about things. This Caldecott winner is definitely near the top of my list for books thus far. I found the movie Hugo on netflix and I am very excited to see the movie and then compare and contrast the two.