book review: the invention of hugo cabret

Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is the book the movie Hugo was based on. It’s the story of a little boy whose father has died, leaving behind only notebooks with drawings of an automaton. This is in 1930s Paris. Hugo winds the clocks in the train station, stealing what he needs to survive. There’s a grouchy old man and a little girl who constantly accuse him (accurately) of being a thief. Then discoveries are made.

The book is told with lots of full page pictures, interspersed with pages of prose. It’s not a traditional illustrated novel as the pictures and words are in sequence, not together. The pictures carry a lot of the action, which is good efficient storytelling in my book (reading action scenes isn’t my favourite thing in life). The black and white pictures aren’t amazing though, with the characters all seeming a little generic, but whatever.

The story of Hugo is actually kind of boring. There are predictable bits of him being unloved and forgotten. He doesn’t really change throughout the book. The girl, Isabelle, is a jerk the entire time. The old man has a sudden change of heart that’s a little inexplicable. For a children’s book I guess that’s all right, since you really want clarity of action and things moving forward. For an adult reader it was kind of meh.

I did enjoy all the discussion of filmmaking and films that the characters love. It’s easy to see why this would be made into a movie. So yeah. Not a bad book, but nothing insanely wonderful. And not enough automatonishness!

3 thoughts on “book review: the invention of hugo cabret

    • I ran an Unknown Armies adventure once that was set in quasi-historical Prague where the characters were trying to liberate an automaton (not a golem, which is what the players all expected) from the mad emperor, Leopold or something. Good times.

      It’s probably unreasonable to expect that kind of awesomeness from either a kids book about the power of film or a class on Library Management Software.

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