Before it was a movie, it was a remarkable book.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott award in 2008. This made the book automatically unique. The Caldecott honors illustrations in children's books. The winner is almost always a picture book. Brian Selznick's book is hard to classify. It's part graphic novel, part text, but is full of illustrations, 284 to be exact. I lifted this quote from Wikipedia:
"Selznick himself has described the book as 'not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.'"
The illustrations have the beautiful etched quality of 19th century drawings and are wonderfully detailed. A wonderful draftsman, Selznick should be well-known for his illustrations alone. But the story in The Invention of Hugo Cabret is even more powerful than the drawings.
You will love figuring out all the mysteries in Hugo's life and you will go on an emotional journey with him as he tries to find out more about the family he has lost. The less I tell you about the plot, the more you will enjoy the book. But I will tell you that the central theme is finding your own place in your world.
The new movie "Hugo" by Martin Scorcese (which you should really see in 3-D, by the way) looks like an instant classic to me. I was incredibly impressed by the vision that Scorcese created of a Paris of long ago. The walls of the train station even have beautiful period graphic advertisements. He creates magic using every trick that a film maker has that a novelist does not. He uses lighting, facial expression, and camera movement to give you a fascinating and gripping experience. But the novel has just as much power as the movie. And the illustrations make you want to read it again and again.
Before going to the movie, I was worried that the mystery and the disorienting strangeness of the book would be lost on the screen. One of the best things about the book was discovering page by page the mystery surrounding Hugo Cabret's life. Happily, there is plenty of mystery in the movie as well, even if you have already read the book.You may be a person who prefers seeing the movie first and reading the book second. I am the opposite. But either way you follow, both the novel and the movie should be experienced.
Selznick's website is one of the best author websites around. And you can find more information about automatons there. And their story is as fascinating as fiction. The Invention of Hugo Cabret's website will tell you much more about the automaton which inspired the book.