Reviews for Invention of Hugo Cabret : A Novel in Words and Pictures


Booklist Reviews 2007 January #1
Selznick's "novel in words and pictures," an intriguing mystery set in 1930s Paris about an orphan, a salvaged clockwork invention, and a celebrated filmmaker, resuscitates an anemic genre--the illustrated novel--and takes it to a whole new level. The result is somewhat similar to a graphic novel, but experiencing its mix of silvery pencil drawings and narrative interludes is ultimately more akin to watching a silent film. Indeed, movies and the wonder they inspire, "like seeing dreams in the middle of the day," are central to the story, and Selznick expresses an obvious passion for cinema in ways both visual (successive pictures, set against black frames as if projected on a darkened screen, mimic slow zooms and dramatic cuts) and thematic (the convoluted plot involves director Georges M'eli'es, particularly his fanciful 1902 masterpiece, A Trip to the Moon .) This hybrid creation, which also includes movie stills and archival photographs, is surprising and often lovely, but the orphan's story is overshadowed by the book's artistic and historical concerns (the heady extent of which are revealed in concluding notes about Selznick's inspirations, from the Lumi'ere brothers to Fran'eois Truffaut). Nonetheless, bookmaking this ambitious demands and deserves attention--which it will surely receive from children attracted by a novel in which a complex narrative is equally advanced by things both read and seen. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Over a sequence of twenty-one double-page wordless, illustrated spreads, a story begins. The tale that follows is a lively one, involving the dogged Hugo, his ally Isabelle, an automaton that can draw pictures, and a stage magician turned filmmaker. The interplay between the illustrations and text is complete genius, and themes of secrets, dreams, and invention play lightly but resonantly throughout. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #2
Here's a dilemma for the Newbery committee...and the Caldecott: what do you do with an illustrated novel in which neither text nor pictures can tell the story alone? Not to mention the drama to be found in the page turns themselves. A brief introduction sets the time (1931) and place (Paris) and invites readers to imagine they're at the movies. And with a turn of the page, they are, as, over a sequence of twenty-one double-page wordless spreads, a story begins. A picture of the moon gives way to an aerial shot of Paris; day breaks as the "camera" moves into a shot of a train station, where a boy makes his way to a secret passage from which, through a peephole, he watches an old man sitting at a stall selling toys. Finally, the text begins: "From his perch behind the clock, Hugo could see everything." The story that follows in breathtaking counterpoint is a lively one, involving the dogged Hugo, his tough little ally Isabelle, an automaton that can draw pictures, and a stage magician turned filmmaker, the real-life Georges MŽlis, most famously the director of A Trip to the Moon (1902). There is a bounty of mystery and incident here, along with several excellent chase scenes expertly rendered in the atmospheric, dramatically crosshatched black-and-white (naturally) pencil drawings that make up at least a third of the book. (According to the final chapter, and putting a metafictional spin on things, there are 158 pictures and 26,159 words in the book.) The interplay between the illustrations (including several stills from MŽlis's frequently surreal films and others from the era) and text is complete genius, especially in the way Selznick moves from one to the other, depending on whether words or images are the better choice for the moment. And as in silent films, it's always just one or the other, wordless double-spread pictures or unillustrated text, both framed in the enticing black of the silent screen. While the bookmaking is spectacular, and the binding secure but generous enough to allow the pictures to flow easily across the gutter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is foremost good storytelling, with a sincerity and verbal ease reminiscent of Andrew Clements (a frequent Selznick collaborator) and themes of secrets, dreams, and invention that play lightly but resonantly throughout. At one point, Hugo watches in awe as Isabelle blithely picks the lock on a door. "How did you learn to do that?" he asks. "Books," she answers. Exactly so. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2007 January #2
From Selznick's ever-generative mind comes a uniquely inventive story told in text, sequential art and period photographs and film. Orphaned Hugo survives secretly in a Parisian train station (circa 1930). Obsessed with reconstructing a broken automaton, Hugo is convinced that it will write a message from his father that will save his life. Caught stealing small mechanical repair parts from the station's toy shop, Hugo's life intersects with the elderly shop owner and his goddaughter, Isabelle. The children are drawn together in solving the linked mysteries of the automaton and the identity of the artist, illusionist and pioneer filmmaker, Georges Mliès, long believed dead. Discovering that Isabelle's godfather is Mliès, the two resurrect his films, his reputation and assure Hugo's future. Opening with cinematic immediacy, a series of drawings immerses readers in Hugo's mysterious world. Exquisitely chosen art sequences are sometimes stopped moments, sometimes moments of intense action and emotion. The book, an homage to early filmmakers as dreammakers, is elegantly designed to resemble the flickering experience of silent film melodramas. Fade to black and cue the applause! (notes, film credits) (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Library Journal BookSmack
The fantasy and surprise of The Night Circus is nicely echoed in the delightful mixture of forms that Brian Selznick blends in his story of Hugo, a 12-year-old orphan who lives within the walls of a Paris train station. While Selznick's novel is ostensibly for younger readers, it should please adult fans of Morgenstern with its invitation to wonder and its focus on characters that hold answers for each other. Both novels center on the creation of something grand and important. In Hugo's case, it is the quest to repair an automaton that he believes will write him a message from his father. As his story unfolds, he discovers far more than the message-he discovers something lost for too long. The two novels share a lush sensibility, which Morgenstern achieves through extravagant detail, while Selznick, an illustrator and writer, creates by blending visual detail and textual description. The same captivated feeling one gets figuring out just what Marco has done with his scrapbook of hair and signatures is present on every page of Selznick's masterwork. Hugo just might have grown up to be Friedrick Thiessen, the wonderful clockmaker of Morgenstern's novel. - Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads," Booksmack! 10/6/11 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 January #1

Here is a true masterpieceâ€"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: Hugo's father dies in a fire at the museum; Hugo winds up living in the train station, which brings him together with a mysterious toymaker who runs a booth there, and the boy reclaims the automaton, to which the toymaker also has a connection.

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 (inspired by an actual historical figure in the film industry, Georges Mlis) 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.)

[Page 50]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 March

Gr 4-9-- With characteristic intelligence, exquisite images, and a breathtaking design, Selznick shatters conventions related to the art of bookmaking in this magical mystery set in 1930s Paris. He employs wordless sequential pictures and distinct pages of text to let the cinematic story unfold, and the artwork, rendered in pencil and bordered in black, contains elements of a flip book, a graphic novel, and film. It opens with a small square depicting a full moon centered on a black spread. As readers flip the pages, the image grows and the moon recedes. A boy on the run slips through a grate to take refuge inside the walls of a train station--home for this orphaned, apprentice clock keeper. As Hugo seeks to accomplish his mission, his life intersects with a cantankerous toyshop owner and a feisty girl who won't be ignored. Each character possesses secrets and something of great value to the other. With deft foreshadowing, sensitively wrought characters, and heart-pounding suspense, the author engineers the elements of his complex plot: speeding trains, clocks, footsteps, dreams, and movies--especially those by Georges Mlis, the French pioneer of science-fiction cinema. Movie stills are cleverly interspersed. Selznick's art ranges from evocative, shadowy spreads of Parisian streets to penetrating character close-ups. Leaving much to ponder about loss, time, family, and the creative impulse, the book closes with a waning moon, a diminishing square, and informative credits. This is a masterful narrative that readers can literally manipulate.--Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

[Page 218]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2007 February
Orphaned twelve-year-old Hugo Cabret lives in a train station in Paris in 1931, managing to survive by stealing food and keeping his uncle's disappearance a secret. Hugo runs the clocks in the city for his uncle and pilfers small toy parts in the hopes of fixing an automaton that he received from his father. Eventually his plan of surviving on his own fails, and he befriends a young girl and her grandfather, who owns a toyshop in the train station. The grandfather recognizes Hugo's talent for repairing machinery and employs him at the toy store. The girl's grandfather turns out to be the famous filmmaker Georges Melies, who adopts Hugo and fosters his love for magic Selznick's artwork in this "novel in words and pictures" is stunning. Beautiful, full-page black-and-white illustrations are interspersed throughout the book and advance the story, often in critical areas of the plot. Readers will also love the still film images that are used when the characters discuss Melies's films. The novel is loosely based on the actual French filmmaker, and the credits section at the end gives more information about Melies, films from the early movie era, and automatons. Part mystery, part feel-good drama, and part picture book for older readers, this novel will fly off the shelf simply because of its visual appeal.-Sarah Squires Illus. Photos. 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.

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