The Invention of Hugo Cabret is also about magic and a love of early cinema and the work of Georges Méliès. Many young people who will read the book and see the movie will be hearing about Méliès for the very first time. Hopefully, after being introduced to his work they may retain the sense of wonder and magic that his movies possess. His most well-known film was A Trip to the Moon [Le Voyage dans la lune], made in 1902, with its famous image of a spaceship poking the man in the moon in the eye.
Author and illustrator Brian Selznick has really done his homework on Méliès. He has also combined some tried-and-true elements of classic children’s books — an orphan, a magical toy, a fantasy world — to create some beautiful imagery, both in his graphite drawings and in his prose. I can’t wait to read this again with my daughter, or just flip through the drawings, skipping the prose, like a flipbook.
The story verges on the dark side at times, the illustrations giving it just the right mood and feeling. At one point in the story, while Hugo and Isabelle watch a film together that features an amazing chase sequence Hugo thinks to himself that “every good story should end with a big, exciting chase.” Selznick is as good as his word, and many of the most interesting and exciting passages in The Invention of Hugo Cabret are told strictly through images, like film. It’s a deceptively simple story, but its ideas and themes stay with the reader long after the end title.