The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

From the time I started working as a substitute teacher, it seemed that there was always at least one student somewhere in any given classroom who was carrying around a book that seemed ridiculously large. It had an intricate pattern on the cover and several illustrations within, but I knew absolutely nothing about the story, the author, or the book itself, except that it had won the Caldecott Medal in 2008.

The book was The Invention of Hugo Cabret.



Several students told me repeatedly that this was a book that I absolutely had to read. They constantly suggested it, recommended I buy it for my classroom, and even offered to let me borrow it. But somehow other books always made their way to the top of my pile and this book remained on my list of Books I Should Read Someday.

About a month ago or so, my wife and I were going through our Netflix Instant Queue and saw that we’d put in this children’s movie called Hugo. I had absolutely no idea what it was about, but I had heard it was a great film. So we finally watched it. (It had been in our queue for a very, very, very long time.) We started watching and I instantly fell in love with the story. And then, about a fourth of the way through the film, we learned the name of the main character: Hugo Cabret.

I immediately looked it up on IMDb to confirm: Hugo was a film adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This was the catalyst that finally got this book into my hands. I went online, requested it from my public library, and eagerly waited the notice that it was available. In the meantime, my wife’s uncle suggested I also read Wonderstruck by the same author (Brian Selzick). The notice came, I made my way to the library, brought the book home, and started reading.

A friend said that I could easily read the entire thing in one sitting. Under normal circumstances, this is probably true. But with work, still unpacking and organising our home, and being sick, it took me almost three weeks to get finish. I was reading last night and realised I only had about 10 pages to go, but at this point it was so incredibly late that I knew I’d have to finish in the morning, which I did.

This is a fantastic book! I cannot believe it took me so long to finally read it! Brian Selznick writes a tale of courage, perseverance, bravery, friendship, forgiveness, and discovering personal worth in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever read before. His incorporation of illustrations to actually tell the story, rather than just complement it, is fantastic. One of the main characters, Georges Méliès, was a real person from the early days of French cinema, but all of the other characters are fictional. I am so glad that I finally read this book! It is absolutely going on the top of my list of Books To Buy For My Classroom. (Sadly, I was not able to read Wonderstruck because it had been requested and the library would not let me renew it. I will get my hands on it soon, though!) Thank you to the many students, friends, and family members who suggested I read this book. I’m sorry it took me so long, but I am certainly not sorry that I did it!


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