The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is about a boy named Hugo who is trying to fix a mechanical automaton that he believes will write him a message from his father. It’s written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, who is known for drawing the covers of books like Frindle by Andrew Clements, which I wrote about earlier in this year’s A to Z challenge (they’re right next to each other on the list, too!).
I hadn’t heard especially good things either the book or the movie when the movie first came out, so I didn’t really think about reading it, even after seeing one of my students reading it. Flipping through, it just looked like a kind of easy book with a lot of pictures, but when i decided to read it for the Top 100, I saw that it had more depth than I expected from my first impression of it.
I loved the way Selznick used the illustrations as part of the plot, and it totally makes sense for it to be a movie. In fact, right after I read the book, I watched the movie on Amazon Prime because I wanted to see what they did with it. And then, after I watched the movie, I changed my final project to Hugo because I felt like the whole time I was watching the movie, I was already comparing it to the book (I even took notes after the first few things I noticed because it seemed likely that I would want to use it for class even though I had originally signed up for a different book).
I can understand why the people I talked to were less-than-enthusiastic about both the book and the movie, though. Older children or more advanced readers might think that the book is too easy, especially if they are used to skipping pictures when they read. I think it is a great book to explore with students, though, to build critical thinking skills by making them think more deeply about the way the author wrote the book and the effect the combination of illustrations and words in this format has on the reader.
The movie tries to be more of a family movie, but it seems to struggle with balancing artistry with keeping the attention of the kids, and it falls on the artistic side, which is great for adults who watch the movie, but may seem boring to the kids.
(I’ll be doing the book with my students soon and working on this my final project, so there may be a part 2 to this post if I come up with anything good…)
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter I.