Word Nerd Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznik
by Trisha Quezada
This is a story of loss and belonging told through a combination of pictures and text. It’s not exactly a graphic novel, nor is it a traditional picture book. Filled with incredibly detailed full- page pencil drawings that take the place of much of the text, it’s a uniquely compelling format.
Hugo Cabret is a little boy that lives in the walls of a train station tending the clocks. Took over this responsibility when his uncle, who took him in after the death of his father, disappeared one day. He’s terrified that the station master will find him and put him in prison. The only thing he has left is the broken automaton that his father found just before his death. Hugo is determined to fix it and has been stealing gears and other parts from the toymaker in the train station in order to get the parts he needs. Of course, he gets caught and the remainder of the story tells of his struggle to understand the adult world, make friends, and find a new family.
It’s a sweet, melancholy story, but it’s also a hopeful one. While much of the story is very sad there are spots of brightness throughout that keep it from being overwhelming or depressing. And the happy ending fits rather than being trite or forced. Even if the story itself hadn’t been excellent I would probably recommend it just for the formatting and the illustrations. But the story and the writing are really good – and the combination of the two is truly excellent.