Author: Brian Selznick
Publication Year: 2007
Half sketches create a story in pictures too, relevant history. Real last-century French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès collected mechanical robot-like automata, and, impoverished, worked at a toy booth in a Paris railway station. Here, orphan Hugo fixes his late father's automata, and meets Méliès through his god-daughter Isabelle.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret tells a story about Hugo Cabret, an orphaned boy who lives behind the wall of a train station in French. He lives with his uncle who’s the caretaker of station’s clocks. He works as his uncle’s apprentice after his father, who’s a clockmaker, died. His father died while working on a mysterious automaton at the museum. The museum was caught on fire and his father was locked inside the museum. Because of that, Hugo sneaked into the museum’s ruin and stole the broken automaton. He then makes repairing the automaton as his mission to reconnect with his late father. While trying to repair the automaton, he met an old man who owns a toy booth and a girl named Isabelle. Apparently, the automaton holds a past of someone who Hugo’s never imagined.
This book is not only consists of words, but also pictures and beautiful illustrations. The pictures and illustrations are essential to the book. They provide part of the story along with the words. Some of the pictures are taken from real images relating to the story and some are illustrated by the author himself in black and white. Though the illustrations are rather simply drawn using pencil, I think they are stunning. They present Paris in the early 30s beautifully.
As for the story, the plot is very simple. Like the plot, the writing is also simplistic. Probably because this is a children book, or maybe that’s how Selznick writes. I don’t know for sure because this is his book that I’ve first read.
Although the story is about Hugo Cabret’s ‘invention’ (hence the title), this book is dedicated to the early invention of film and George Melies. In fact, the plot mainly revolves around George Melies. He is a key character that we’ll find out in the later part of the book. He’s also a real person, a French illusionist and filmmaker. Despite the fact that it’s based on a real person, the events in this book are fictional.
The characters are nothing special, I guess. The main two, Hugo and Isabelle, sometimes I find them annoying. Especially Isabella. I couldn’t care and connect to the characters well, I see them as an element of the book that are needed so the story would flow. My main interest on this book is the story and the illustrations.
Overall, this book might get a full five stars if I read it when I was younger. But The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a good children book. Also the beautiful illustrations, I couldn’t stop mention them whenever I talk about this book. The number of pages of this book sounds intimidating, but this book is a quick read. The illustrations make reading this book feels like watching a movie. I recommend this book if you enjoy a simple story with stunning illustrations.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret has been adapted into film, starring Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret and Chloe Grace Moretz as Isabelle. I was surprised to see Moretz as Isabelle. It’s not that I don’t like her. She’s a good actress, I just thought that she’s too old to be Isabelle. Besides those two, the film also stars Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies, Sacha Baron Cohen as Station Inspector, Helen McCrory as Mama Jeanne, and Jude Law as Hugo’s father.
The movie stays true to the book, except for a few details. Which I find normal. I was hesitant to watch Hugo at first, because the book’s plot is rather simple. How would that translate well into a two hours long movie? The pacing is slow. The station inspector got more role in the film. He even has a love interest who I’m not sure appears in the book. There’s also a character that doesn't appear in the film though, such as Etienne.
|Station inspector and his love interest|
I like the film version of Hugo and Isabelle better than the book version. They both are less annoying and act more sensible than the book version. In the book, Hugo likes to keep things to himself which most of the time only troubles him more. While in the movie, he knows when to keep things to himself and when to tell the truth. Isabelle also appears more lovely and useful to Hugo. Her fond of books is shown more in the film. She often recites quotes from books.
Before, I’ve described how beautiful the book is. So I set a high expectation for the film. The film doesn’t disappoint me. It is stunning in its own way. After all, what’s the better way to celebrate the invention of film than appreciate it through a film? The film goes more in depth on the history of filmmaking. My favorite part is when Papa George told Hugo about his past when he’s still making films. George’s films are dreamlike. It’s magical and again, beautiful. I can watch those part again and again. It’s incredible to see that from the simplest tools and technology, beautiful films can be made. I mean, they edited the movie by simply cutting or painting the film negatives. I just find that amazing.
|Papa Georges beautiful movie scenes|
Overall, the film adaptation is beautiful. That’s how I would describe it. I’d say that I like the film more than the book. You don’t have to worry that the film will bore you. You’ll be too busy noticing the beautiful setting that’s used in the film. It doesn’t really matter if you haven’t read the book yet; or which one to do first, watching the movie or read the book. There’s not much differences from the book. So I recommend this movie. On the scale of one to ten, I give Hugo an eight.