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The Hugo Movie Companion

Making A Movie of The Invention of Hugo Cabret

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Book Cover for The Hugo Movie Companion by Brian Selznick


As the subtitle of The Hugo Movie Companion indicates, the book provides A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture. The "Beloved Book" is, of course, Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret, for which Selznick was awarded the Caldecott Medal for picture book illustration as the 2008 Caldecott Medal winner.

Unlike recent movie companion books, such as The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary, The Hugo Movie Companion provides a comprehensive look at all aspects of movie-making and targets an older audience. I recommend it for ages 11-18, as well as adults and some younger fans.

The Hugo Movie Companion: An Overview

The Hugo Movie Companion is 256-pages long. After a brief introduction, the book begins with a first-person account by Brian Selznick of his experiences in researching, writing and illustrating The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The book ends with his account of the filming of the final two minutes of Hugo, during which he had a cameo part in the movie.

Interspersed between the beginning and end, you'll find additional material written by writer/historian David Serlin and the movie's director, Martin Scorsese, and Selznick's detailed descriptions of the roles of the various members of the film crew and the actors, along with their own comments about the film. From A to Z, these included everyone from hair designer Jan Archibald to Ray Winstone, the actor who portrayed Uncle Claude, close to 40 people.

David Serlin's brief informative essays - What Was Paris Really Like in 1931?, George Melies: Magician of the Stage and Screen and A Brief History of Automatons - help the reader to better understand the context of both the book and the movie. The chapter, The Director and His Vision, not only illustrates how important the director is, it also provides background information on Martin Scorsese, including why he wanted to direct Hugo and how he prepared to make a movie from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It also includes his essay on The Birth of Cinema and why he has so much respect for the work of early filmmaker Georges Melies.

The Hugo Movie Companion: The Illustrations

There are 146 pages of illustrations in the 256-page book. Most are full color shots of the actors and crew taken by Jaap Buitendijk. There are also historic photographs of Paris in 1931, photos of marked-up scripts, automatons and more. Particularly interesting to me were the pages showing illustrations from the The Invention of Hugo Cabret, along with photographs showing how they were interpreted in the movie.

Postscript: At Book's End

After Winding It Up, a poignant one-page look back by Brian Selznick, comes a 13-page illustrated section of additional information. It includes museums and other recommended resources in Paris and New York City, related Web sites and movies and one paragraph professional biographies of the 40 people involved in the production.

Author and Illustrator Brian Selznick

When Brian Selznick won the Caldecott Medal for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it completely changed people's perception of what a picture book is. The Caldecott Medal, which honors artists for picture book illustration, had always gone to artists for traditional picture books, usually 32 pages long and written for younger children. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a 525 page-long book for middle grade readers, with 284 pages of illustrations. The story is told in multiple pages of text, interspersed with multiple pages of illustrations that carry the story forward. Reading the book is like entering an old movie, so it makes sense that it was selected for a movie version.

Selnick's latest book, Wonderstuck uses a similar format to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with notable exceptions. In this case, two stories are told, set fifty years apart. One story is told in illustrations only, the other is told in words only, until the two stories come together at the end of the book. It, too, is a fascinating book for middle readers.

The Hugo Movie Companion: My Recommendation

Fans of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, kids and adults interested in any and all aspects of how movies are made, those interested in automatons and early filmmaking, and those interested in how a movie version can be made from a book will all be intrigued by The Hugo Movie Companion. While I particularly recommend the book for ages 11-18 and adults, I think a lot of younger fans of The Invention of Hugo Cabret will enjoy the many photographs and drawings in The Hugo Movie Companion and seeing how the pages of the book became scenes in the movie.

Hugo Movie Review

For detailed information about the movie, see the Hugo movie review by Carey Bryson, the About.com Guide to Kids' Movies & TV.

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