The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Brian Selznick (Author)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade
2008 Caldecott Medal winner

The groundbreaking debut novel from bookmaking pioneer, Brian Selznick!

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks--like the gears of the clocks he keeps--with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

With 284 pages of original drawings and combining elements of picture book, graphic novel, and film, Brian Selznick breaks open the novel form to create an entirely new reading experience. Here is a stunning cinematic tour de force from a boldly innovative storyteller and artist.
Select format:

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Here is a true masterpiecean artful blending of narrative, illustration and cinematic technique, for a story as tantalizing as it is touching.

Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo lives in the walls of a Paris train station at the turn of the 20th century, where he tends to the clocks and filches what he needs to survive. Hugo's recently deceased father, a clockmaker, worked in a museum where he discovered an automaton: a human-like figure seated at a desk, pen in hand, as if ready to deliver a message. After his father showed Hugo the robot, the boy became just as obsessed with getting the automaton to function as his father had been, and the man gave his son one of the notebooks he used to record the automaton's inner workings. The plot grows as intricate as the robot's gears and mechanisms: Hugo's father dies in a fire at the museum; Hugo winds up living in the train station, which brings him together with a mysterious toymaker who runs a booth there, and the boy reclaims the automaton, to which the toymaker also has a connection.

To Selznick's credit, the coincidences all feel carefully orchestrated; epiphany after epiphany occurs before the book comes to its sumptuous, glorious end. Selznick hints at the toymaker's hidden identity (inspired by an actual historical figure in the film industry, Georges Méliès) through impressive use of meticulous charcoal drawings that grow or shrink against black backdrops, in pages-long sequences. They display the same item in increasingly tight focus or pan across scenes the way a camera might. The plot ultimately has much to do with the history of the movies, and Selznick's genius lies in his expert use of such a visual style to spotlight the role of this highly visual media. A standout achievement. Ages 9-12. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-9 With characteristic intelligence, exquisite images, and a breathtaking design, Selznick shatters conventions related to the art of bookmaking in this magical mystery set in 1930s Paris. He employs wordless sequential pictures and distinct pages of text to let the cinematic story unfold, and the artwork, rendered in pencil and bordered in black, contains elements of a flip book, a graphic novel, and film. It opens with a small square depicting a full moon centered on a black spread. As readers flip the pages, the image grows and the moon recedes. A boy on the run slips through a grate to take refuge inside the walls of a train stationhome for this orphaned, apprentice clock keeper. As Hugo seeks to accomplish his mission, his life intersects with a cantankerous toyshop owner and a feisty girl who won't be ignored. Each character possesses secrets and something of great value to the other. With deft foreshadowing, sensitively wrought characters, and heart-pounding suspense, the author engineers the elements of his complex plot: speeding trains, clocks, footsteps, dreams, and moviesespecially those by Georges Mé liè s, the French pioneer of science-fiction cinema. Movie stills are cleverly interspersed. Selznick's art ranges from evocative, shadowy spreads of Parisian streets to penetrating character close-ups. Leaving much to ponder about loss, time, family, and the creative impulse, the book closes with a waning moon, a diminishing square, and informative credits. This is a masterful narrative that readers can literally manipulate. - Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

Copyright 2007 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Awards and Praise for The Invention of Hugo Cabret

2008 Caldecott Medal winner
National Book Award Finalist
#1 New York Times Bestseller
New York Times Best Illustrated Book
Los Angeles Times Favorite Children's Book of the Year
TIME Magazine's 100 Best Children's and Young Adult Books of All Time

Evokes wonder . . . like a silent film on paper. — The New York Times

A fast-paced treat. — People Magazine

Distinctive. — The Wall Street Journal

Cinematic. — Parenting Magazine

Captivating. — Los Angeles Times Book Review

If your kid loves the J.K. Rowling series, then [they are] bound to enjoy  The Invention of Hugo Cabret. . . — Good Housekeeping

* An original and creative integration of art and text. — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

Visually stunning . . . raises the bar. — San Antonio Express-News
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Press
Publication date
March 20, 2007
BISAC categories
JUV028000 - Juvenile Fiction | Mysteries, Espionage, & Detective Stories
JUV013050 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Orphans & Foster Homes
Library of Congress categories
Melies, Georges
Railroad stations
Paris (France)
Third Republic, 1870-1940
North Carolina Children's Book Award
Nominee 2008 - 2008
National Book Awards
Finalist 2007 - 2007
Bluebonnet Awards
Nominee 2009 - 2009
New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association Award
Winner 2007 - 2007
Caldecott Medal
Winner 2008 - 2008
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Book Sense Book of the Year Award
Winner 2008 - 2008
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Maine Student Book Award
Second Place 2009 - 2009
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens
Recommended 2008 - 2008
Golden Archer Award
Nominee 2011 - 2011
Grand Canyon Reader Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Kentucky Bluegrass Award
Winner 2008 - 2008
Nene Award
Winner 2012 - 2012
Young Reader's Choice Award
Nominee 2010 - 2010
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award
Nominee 2009 - 2009
Volunteer State Book Awards
Nominee 2009 - 2010
Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
Winner 2009 - 2009
Iowa Children's Choice (ICCA) Award
Winner 2009 - 2010
Garden State Teen Book Award
Winner 2010 - 2010

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!