The Invention of Hugo Cabret Book Poster Image

The Invention of Hugo Cabret



Spectacular cinematic book has lots of heart.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers learn a bit about clocks, mechanical machines, automatons, and the history of film, especially the work of filmmaker Georges Melies.

Positive messages

Strong messages about resilience, friendship, love, and family. 

Positive role models

Hugo steals to survive but yearns for friendship and love. A girl loves books and helps Hugo in his endeavors.

Violence & scariness

A boy's hand is crushed in a door.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Brian Selznick's poignant, magical Caldecott Medal-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret is set in a Paris train station and features a 12-year-old hero who's had a sad life. Orphaned, alone, and homeless, he lives by stealing and scavenging, and no one is kind to him until late in the book. The wholly original story is told largely in beautiful black-and-white charcoal drawings -- 284 pages of them -- whose perspective pans in and out the way shots in a film would. It was made into a live-action movie titled Hugo and released in 2011.

What's the story?

When Hugo's father, a clockmaker, is killed in a fire, Hugo is taken in by his uncle. They live together in a hidden room inside the walls of the Paris train station, where it's the uncle's job to maintain the station clocks -- until one night he disappears. Now Hugo is alone, still living inside the station walls, stealing to survive, and maintaining the clocks so no one will know his uncle is gone.

Hugo also works on an automaton, a mechanical man, that his father was trying to restore. He steals parts from a toy shop in the station. When he's caught, the mean store owner takes away his father's notebook and threatens him with arrest. But the old man's hidden past and Hugo's are intertwined, and the secret message hidden in the automaton's workings is only the beginning. 

Is it any good?


THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET is like nothing you've seen before. When you or your child first pick it up, it looks like one of those fat fantasies that are so popular these days. When you open it, it seems similar to a graphic novel. But lengthy sections of wordless illustrations (284 pages of drawings) are interspersed with pages of more traditional prose. But neither text nor pictures can stand without the other.

Brian Selznick's brilliant hybrid is put in service of a complex and heartfelt story that involves a plucky orphan, the history of early cinema, the mechanics of clocks and other intricate machinery, and a little bit of magic. The whole is a work of great beauty and excitement, with breathless pacing ramped up even further by the wordless sections. Selznick has created an entirely new art form that succeeds as art, literature, and entertainment. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about wordless stories. How does a story told in pictures differ from a conventional book? Is it as easy to follow? Is it more fun in some ways? 

  • How can an automaton be made to write poems and draw pictures? How does an automaton work?

  • What did you learn from this book about how the earliest movies were made?

  • Kids may want to see the films referred to in this story. Consider seeking them out for further viewing.

Book details

Author:Brian Selznick
Illustrator:Brian Selznick
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:March 28, 2007
Number of pages:533
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 5, 7, and 10 year old Written bysummer6ft March 7, 2010

Great read together book.

I read this aloud to my 3 kids ages 5, 7 and 10. The older 2 are very well read so they followed it well and the 5 year old enjoyed it although I don't know that she 'got' all of it. The illustrations throughout are exquisite and it gave us a chance to talk about the importance of friends and family, asking for help when needed and other things. We all thoroughly enjoyed the book! We are a very conservative, Christian household and I don't remember anything as jumping out as too bad.
Parent of a 10 year old Written byBlueJade November 17, 2009

Imaginative graphic novel for tweens about early filmmaking

Brian Selznick received the 2008 Caldecott award for this book, a picturebook award that usually goes to little kids' books. Finally the ALA recognized that powerful images are in books for older children, too. The book looks thick, but more than half of the pages are full-page illustrations. We read this book together and enjoyed the intrigue of the story and how we wanted to keep turning the page to see what happens next. Some of the story is tragic and sad. Kids may need the context of the difficulties of the 1930s. They will also be curious about real automatons and Georges Melies. Selznick includes website links and books to get more info on both. The story is really about the history of early films in France, but also about magic and magicians, the Depression, horology, mechanics, trains, libraries, and orphans. Fascinating! An imaginative 8-year-old may like it. 10 - 14 years old will definitely like it.
What other families should know
Educational value
Parent Written byHilarieA February 19, 2012

Great for kids and great for adults too!

I am reading Hugo to my two 6-year olds and 5 year old. They love it! We review each chapter to help them remember but this is the first chapter book I have read to them over a series of many nights and it is great. And, it is the first book that I enjoy as much as they do!