Several years ago, when my older kids were four and six, I decided to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret to them. My husband and I had just seen the movie, so I was pretty excited about the book. I put it on hold at the library and waited patiently. I was expecting a typical length middle-grade novel, maybe 200 pages or so. Imagine my shock to find a hefty 500-page novel waiting for me in the library holds section.
How am I going to get through this with the kids?
But I began flipping through it. I found that nearly half of the book’s pages were filled with beautifully drawn, black and white pictures. This was doable. Now, I am not usually a fan of graphic novels, but I loved the feel of this book. Selznick uses the art to related action, intensity and movement. I don’t believe The Invention of Hugo Cabret would work well as an audio book; the pictures really feel like an integral part of the story.
My kids and I really enjoyed reading Hugo together. Both kids loved the pictures, and my six-year-old was very engaged trying to puzzle out the pieces of the storyline.
The story takes place in 1930’s Paris. It was interesting to talk with the kids about that time period and place. The main character, Hugo, is an orphan trying desperately to hide his existence. He is meanwhile searching for a message from his father by repairing a broken automaton. What he find in the end is friendship and a new family. Along the way, he learns about the earliest movies and a film maker named Georges Méliès.
I love how Selznick has woven true history into his fictional story. He even includes several still shots from Méliès’s films.
Overall, I would recommend this book. Things to watch for are Hugo’s deceit and some disrespect for authority. In my opinion, these issues can be talked through with our children and do not prevent me from recommending this book as a read-aloud for ages 5 and older and an independent read for ages 9 and older.
PS. I couldn’t resist a short plug for the movie Hugo. My husband and I loved it! We were caught up in the look and feel of the movie. Martin Scorsese does a superb job capturing his audience, and I feel he did a fantastic job capturing the essence of this book. We also let our kids watch the movie, and they enjoyed it. My only cautions about kids watching this movie are 1) Hugo’s character flaws (he’s thief and he disrespects authority) and 2) there is one dream sequence that might be frightening for children in which Hugo is nearly run over by a train but wakens into another dream in which he finds he is made of clockwork. Older kids would definitely enjoy this movie.
What is your favorite movie based on a children’s book?