Invention of Hugo Cabret, The

Earlier this year I read

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznic (2007; Scholastic). It is an imaginative – and magical – story of Georges Méliès (1861-1938) , one of the first filmmakers who specialized in fantasy. He made over 500 films during his life of which 80 are still in existence. His A Trip to the Moon / Le Voyage dans la Lune is available on DVD.


What this book does is use drawings to tell the story between pages of written narrative. It’s like watching a silent film. It relies on our gestalt, and uses ellipsis. It’s over 500 pages long and takes no more than two hours to read but it deserves more time because the pictures are important. I suppose we might think of the use of the drawings as a kind of storyboard, but the silent film analogy works better. There I was reading along, and all of a sudden there are pictures without words. Something went silent – in a different way. My brain changed gears as I looked at the pictures and turned the pages. Words and pictures are all visual, but it was like Méliès’ space ship leaving the earth … the technique led my imagination into another world.


This book is not only interesting and fun, it’s a new genre! It’s playful and very smart.


What does this have to do with media literacy? Film history, how the imagination works with image and words, narrative, etc. I am going to recommend it to my media literacy students when we study film.


The sad thing about Méliès’ films is that people didn’t appreciate fantasy in the early days of cinema; audiences wanted the Lumiere’s reality cinema, with the train coming right at them from the screen (this is also in the novel). Méliès was a magician, and cinema was like making his dreams real.


What a wonderful way to study the history of film and the inner life of a dream-catcher, a natural story-teller. I enjoyed the book as an adult film-lover but it is written for the younger reader. the book would make an excellent Christmas gift for any youngster who loves to read and likes movies as well.


 Here is a link to; if you scroll down you can get several reviews, beginning with Publisher’s Weekly.




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