The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: Book Cover

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Author: Brian Selznick

Page Length: 525

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Hugo Cabret is a 12 year old orphan who is an accomplished thief and one who is skilled at fixing clocks and other machines. Hugo lives and “works” in a train station during the 1930’s in Paris, France. Before this, a museum fire killed Hugo’s father and Hugo’s subsequent guardian deserts him. As a result, Hugo becomes a recluse and manages to lead a quiet life. However, the discovery of an automated machine and a notebook fascinate Hugo as they may provide clues about his father.

This fascination leads Hugo into a world of trouble as he must open up about his secret life and risk being taken into custody by officials. Little does Hugo know that much of what he has been hiding will provide insight into not only his life but the past life of a local toy maker.

REVIEW: This was a very creative story to read. Half of the book’s tale is told using black and white illustrations. The pictures do not just accompany the text, they actually add detail to the written story.

Upon encountering each picture, readers are encouraged to spend time with each illustration. The author goes beyond just a tale of an orphan trying to find out the secrets behind an old machine, by delving into the topic of the early silent picture/movie industry.

The author, after much research, has taken the known facts about the real-life filmmaker of Georges Melies (as represented in the character of the toy maker) and imagined his personality.

The art of early cinema and the adventure of secret discoveries come together in this great book that will appeal to many readers. It is a nice blend of graphic novel, art work, and film slides.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: imagery, setting, historical influence

RELATED BOOKS: Before Hollywood: From Shadow Play to the Silver Screen by Paul Clee

ART CONNECTIONS: There are 284 pages of original drawings by the author, Brian Selznick, in The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

The book also contains drawings/sketches by Georges Melies (pages 284-297) as well as other works by Brian Selznick that were inspired by the works of Georges Melies.

For a complete listing of all film still and illustration credits, refer to page 531 of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: For a complete listing of films mentioned in the book as well as films that were influential in the creation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, refer to page 532 of the book.

Sources report that a film studio is looking into adapting the book into a movie for a 2011 release.

RELATED WEBSITES: (official website for the book) (type “Melies” into the search engine for links to Georges Meiles’ life story) (lessons and activities that relate to the book)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

June 5, 2010



Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 281

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Drama, Fiction-Crime

PLOT SUMMARY: Is he really a Monster? Did he really have anything to do with the murder of the drugstore owner? These are the questions that young 16 year old Steve Harmon is asking himself. All he knew was that he was to enter a drugstore, see how many people were inside, and see if there were any police. Then he was to exit the drugstore. Actually, did Steve even agree to be a “lookout”? It was planned to be a robbery or so that is what Bobo Evans and James King told him. After Steve leaves the drugstore, the robbery went terribly awry. The drugstore owner, Mr. Nesbitt is murdered. Steve is arrested and put on trial for murder. If convicted he faces 25 years to life in prison or the death penalty. While in the detention center, Steve maintains his sanity by writing in a journal that he will use for a “film” after this nightmare is over. Steve was not even present when the murder occurred, so does this make him a monster? How could a jury convict him? How could people think he was a monster, as the prosecutor described him at the beginning of the trial? His own lawyer doesn’t even believe him. His parents do not even look at him the same way. When Steve views the “film” of himself, who or what does he now see?

REVIEW:  Walter Dean Myers does an excellent job at immediately getting the reader’s attention with his first sentence in Monster: “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is beaten up and screaming for help”. The story is written in the format of journal entries by Steven Harmon as well as dramatic script writing by the same character. The book is written in a young African American teenager’s point of view. The book’s voice is in modern language/slang that young reader’s can understand. However, some of the scenes and events described in the detention center range from cries of despair and beatings to rape. This subject matter is extremely difficult to read but does portray the realities of jail. One gains insights into Steve’s emotions, fears, and self concept from his journal entries. After reading the book, one can not help but re-examine one’s own beliefs and self concept. After reading Monster, hopefully young readers will realize that choices they make now can affect their lives forever as Steve does in the gray writing on pages 220-221 – “What was I thinking?”       

AREAS FOR TEACHING: main idea and supporting details, theme, setting, characters, point of view, conflict, plot, compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequence of events, inference, conclusions, generalizations, predictions, voice, mood, tone, 5 steps of the writing process, dialogue, dialect, journals, diaries, antagonist, peer pressure.

TOUCHY PAGES: 36, 37, 57, 73, 109, 139-140, 143-144

RELATED BOOKS:  Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Chocolate War (Readers Circle) by Robert Cormier, The Contender by Robert Lipstyte. Books by the same author: Slam!, Hoops, Scorpions, Glory Field, Fallen Angels, Game, Bad Boy: A Memoir, Somewhere in the Darkness, Motown and Didi , Harlem

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Outsiders(1983),  Westside Story (2003),  Once Upon a Time In the Hood (2004), The Price of the American Dream (2004).


REVIEWED BY: Tammy Leitzel

August 24, 2008


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Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 277

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Steve Harmon is on trial for felony murder.  He is 16 years old, scared, and alone in jail.  The prosecutor calls him a MONSTER.

The story is written in a movie format as Steve writes and directs it.  As the prosecutor brings witnesses to the stand, the reader experiences Steve’s thoughts and emotions.  He is excused because of the testimony of one of the men who committed the robbery.  Supposedly, Steve was an accomplice by going into the neighborhood store in Harlem, checking it out to see if it was safe, and giving the two robbers a “go ahead” sign to enter the store.  As the robbery takes place, the store owner pulls a gun, and in a struggle, the gun goes off, and the owner dies.

Steve’s lawyer never gives him much hope, but there is no “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Steve was actually involved.  As he takes the stand, he denies being in the store the day of the crime.  He does acknowledge knowing the accomplices. The jury is left to decide the outcome of his future. 

REVIEW:  I have read several of Walter Dean Myers young adult books and enjoyed this one the most.  As he writes the book in a play format, the reader becomes very attached to Steve Harmon’s feelings and fears.  Meyer’s lets the reader come to his own conclusion about Steve’s guilt or innocence.  I think the book would be a good class novel to read.

At the end of the book, there are a section of questions for discussion and questions for the author that would be good to use if read as a class novel.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Setting, Compare/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Conflict, and Conclusions, Generalizations, and Predictions

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Violent content but written in an acceptable manner

RELATED BOOKS:  Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Bad Boy: A Memoir


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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