The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a children’s book (designed for 9-12 year-olds), written and illustrated by Brian Selznick and published this year. Set in Paris in 1931, it tells of a young orphan boy, Hugo Cabret, who is reduced to stealing to find food to eat, but then rescues an automaton from a museum fire. Seeking pieces to repair the figure, he steals pieces from a toy store by a railway station. Then he is caught. Now read on…
Our interest is that the toy store keeper is Georges Méliès. The illustration above from the book echoes the famous photograph of Méliès at his kiosk on the Gare Montparnasse, years after he had lost his film business and disappeared into obscurity, and just at the point of his re-discovery by film historians. Méliès becomes a leading character in the story, introducing Hugo to the world of early film. The book is a graphic-novel-with-text, and incorporates images from Méliès’ films.
There’s a website, www.theinventionofhugocabret.com, which has information on the ideas behind the book, including a page on Méliès, and a Flash slide show of some of the book’s illustrations.
There’s a video interview with Selznick, emphasizing his fascination for the Méliès story, on the ExpandedBooks.com site. It shows many illustrations from the book, from which we learn that Selznick makes a particular point of depicting shoe-heels in his drawings (Méliès’ film library was notoriously melted down to make, amongst other things, shoe-heels).
Rumour has it that Martin Scorsese is considering making a film based on the novel, or at least that John Logan, scriptwriter for The Aviator, is writing a screenplay.