© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret


by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret Introduction

In A Nutshell

Gulp! At first glance, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a hefty book. It weighs in at over 500 pages. You might even feel your eyes drooping from exhaustion already… but seriously, Shmoopers, this one's worth the effort. Admit it, you've seen a long movie or two in your day (hello, Lord of the Rings trilogy), and if you've sat through a four-hour flick, we think you can handle 500 fun-filled pages.

Plus, this novel's got a trick up its sleeve. Much of it is illustrated. Instead of drowning in text, you'll be diving headfirst into a lush, rich, exciting world. So what are you waiting for, Shmoopers? Take the plunge.

This is a book about magic, plain and simple—the magic of the silver screen, the magic of family, friendship, the magical thrill of adventure. And if you’re not sold yet, let us just say that it’s all set in Paris, the City of Light. La Ville-Lumière.

In the book, a young orphan named—you guessed it—Hugo lives in a train station and is obsessed with fixing an automaton that his father left behind when he died. Through a strange series of events, he gets pulled into the world of Georges Méliès, an old man working at the station's toy booth. As Hugo soon finds out, the old geezer has quite the past, filled with magic, film, and mechanical men. Once the two become friends, the story really gets underway.

And what a story it is. With words and pictures, Brian Selznick gives us a world that only great cinema can inspire. In fact, he got the idea to write the book when he watched an old flick called A Trip to the Moon by a guy named Georges Méliès (source)… Wait a sec. That sounds familiar, right?

Right. Selznick thought Méliès would make one awesome main character and decided to write a book about the guy. And of course the book was so good that it became a movie itself: Hugo, starring big names like Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, and Jude Law. It's a fitting adaptation, given that this book is all about the power of film, and is bursting at the seams with movie references galore.

And that's exactly where the magic comes in. After all, what's more enchanting than the good old silver screen? The characters in The Invention of Hugo Cabret get swept up in the adventurous history of moviemaking, and make their own history while they're at it.


Why Should I Care?

If you, like us, are an avid fan of How It's Made, then this is the book for you. You'll get to take a peek at the inner workings of all kinds of different things—a wind-up toy, a clock, even the human heart.

And who’s there to lead us through all these discoveries? A little boy named Hugo, who's just scrappy and clever enough to spearhead his own education, even though he's homeless, parentless, and school-less. So how does he manage to learn so much?

Hugo approaches the world with a sense of wonder and inquisitiveness that makes even Shmoop a little jealous. When something interests Hugo, he does everything he can to learn about it, even if his methods are sometimes questionable. He's got curiosity in spades, and he uses it to seek out all the magical and amazing things that surround him. Which is a pretty awesome attitude to have, when you consider the fact that this kiddo hasn't had it easy.

But really, is it any wonder that this kid has such a hungry mind? Just think about the age in which he, well, comes of age. Film has just been introduced (remember those black and white, silent dealies?), and technology is taking off in all kinds of new, even magical directions. In a way, that sounds a lot like our world today, just a little more analog, and a little less digital. There’s magic in the world everywhere, and Hugo, Isabelle and Georges Méliès are all the kind of curious explorers and magicians who seek it out.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...