The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

A friend and I are were arguing vehemently talking the other night about a book I did not prefer (see here to see how much I did not prefer it).  He had read it several years before and remembered it much more positively than I did.  We had a good time yelling at each other bantering back and forth about it, and at one point, I stated some version of my "a book is only good if it changes me in some critical way" statement, and he countered that without having read that book, we couldn't have had the conversation, and thus, it too had changed me.  Though I disagree with the spirit of what he was saying, he was right in that every book, regardless of content or subjective quality analysis, offers us something, adds something to our experience in the world.

My first read for Paris in July (I know, it's been a slow start!) was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.  Set in Paris in 1931, this book was the first graphic novel to win the Caldecott medal, awarded each year for the best example of illustration in a children's book.  I have read perhaps 3 graphic novels in my life, so it should be obvious that this is a genre I do not gravitate toward.  And perhaps it should not be a surprise that I found myself kind of skimming over the pictures to get to the text.  The story was a pretty good one, and the art was (at times) well-executed, interesting, and strong.  That said, it was also dark (the artist uses a lot of pencil strokes for each drawing) and somehow slow-moving.  It wanted me to ponder the art more, and I just wanted to find out what happened.  As a unique form, though, the book more than deserves the accolades it has earned.  In the book, Selznick combines the novel, the picture book, and film in exciting ways.  He blurs the line between a page turn and a scene cut, and he incorporates stills from old movies and sketches from the filmmaker Georges Melies throughout.  It is an interesting juxtaposition, and it is this which I feel was the most substantial takeaway for me.

Though I didn't feel particularly changed by the book itself, it did lead me to this 1902 film by Melies.

Considered the first science fiction film ever, it is remarkable for its innovation and hilarious for its misinterpretation of what space travel might "one day" look like.  It was an excellent addition to my knowledge and a fun start to Paris in July for me, especially in light of Friday's final shuttle launch:

For your final piece of video today, I offer this from Selznick himself.  I was particularly interested in his explanation of how he puts it all together and impressed with the fact that the original art is much smaller and finer and tighter than how it was published.  Interesting stuff.


  1. I watched the video you included of Brian Selznick explaining his sketches and immediately added The Invention of Hugo Cabret to my TBR. I've read a total of four graphic novels in my life and while they aren't all life changing, this one sounds particularly interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I'll have to check this out. sounds interesting.

  3. I just finished Hugo Cabret too. The page you photographed is probably my favourite too- hard not to be with the Eiffel Tower! I possibly enjoyed it more than you did, from how I read your post. It's certainly a fascinating book, and a great start for Paris in July. I'm trying to finish off my own Hugo blog post. I like that you photographed it with the spine of the book showing. My eyes like that on a book cover are always a bit creepy aren't they?

  4. @Brenna - Wasn't that video interesting? It is a easy graphic novel for a novel reader because there is quite a lot of text. Enjoy!

    @Serena - Do check it out!

    @Louise - I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. I realize my post came off sounding like I didn't enjoy it at all, but I did. It just didn't impress me the way other books have. I don't expect all of them to, but I try to make my comments reflect the truth of my experience. And thanks for the compliment on the photograph. It was a fun angle for this one!

  5. This is an awesome post! Thanks for sharing all this.