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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

September 15, 2008

Chers Amis,

Every so often a new invention, crafted of dreams and magic, enrobed in the written word engages our imaginations and topples us spellbound out of the box of literary convention.  BrianHugo Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret,is such a book -a delightful ride, a carnival of unexpected pleasures, part novel, part picture book in the stylish black and white frames of a silent movie. This is our October Book Club selection.  While I am not leading the October meeting, I still wanted to share a few ideas for rabbit trails that Dr. P sent to the group (with a few additions of my own). If you haven't read this (WHY NOT?), go directly to the bookstore or library and obtain a copy. Today.  You will LOVE it!

"The book
for October is remarkable in an of itself.  Here are rabbit trails and
lesson ideas to go with the reading.  I have highlighted those items I
would like every book club member to do and have with them at the October
meeting.  Hope the ideas will inspire you to go beyond and work hard while
having fun!


  • Start literally by looking at the book's
    front cover. What do the wheels, cogs and gears mean?  Is the keyhole
    there to unlock the inside story? Are the characters like separate cogs, each
    with a unique secret?  Alone, what could each character have figured out?

 “In an old house in Paris that was
covered in vines….”

  • So begins a series of famous tales about
    a young girl named Madeline living in Paris.    Located the text of that
    introductory poem and write an introductory poem for this month’s book club
    selection which is also set in Paris -  The Invention of Hugo Cabret
    Be creative!


  • Read The Invention of
    Hugo Cabret
    , pages 1-61. Identify Paris on a world
    Locate a map of the city of
    Paris online to print and use for reference.
    Read about Paris.  Locate the sites mentioned in the story.  Is the train station real or fictional. What about the train crash?  Learn about the invention of trains. The John Bull: A British Locomotive Comes to America by David Weitzman has excellent info and illustrations
  • Construct independent
    arguments or statements to support your chosen stance on the appropriateness of
    the automaton being in Hugo’s possession.



  • Visit the NPR site to hear the author
    reading from the book:


Take a look at Antique Wind-up Toys at
this site:

  • For a brief history of automatons:

  • This movie
    on You Tube shows a 1895, black and white silent movie – a precursor to modern
    3D movies.  Audiences screamed and scrambled to get out of the way.
     Tie this movie to a scene in the book.



  • Draw
    your own automaton.  What would you have it do? Maybe even build one
    (minus the automatic motion).
  • Consider
    this quote and respond whether you would agree with it and why:

sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Sir Arthur
C. Clarke.

  •   View the George Melies “A Trip to the Moon” online and tie it
    into  the above quote.  (WARNING: the silent film ws made in 1904 and is
    quite bizarre esp. the whack the moon people with an umbrella and they vanish
    in a puff of smoke part!)


  • Selznick refers to George Melies as a
    modern day Prometheus. How are they similar?


  • Create your own mini-movie – script and
    all.  Video tape and bring it for us to watch at our meeting. (5 minutes
    long max.)
  • Finally,

    You all might also want to check out the Scholastic Flashlight
    Readers site for the book at 
    It has some excellent interactive games based on the book having to do with
    gears etc. Hope you all enjoy it



2 Comments leave one →
  1. hélène permalink
    September 16, 2008 12:21 pm

    – allez à Paris pour vérifier ce qui est fiction et ce qui est réalité

  2. September 29, 2008 11:31 pm

    We started reading Hugo Cabret last night and it is an amazing book! My daughter hasn’t been enjoying books lately, and she’s loving this one. I was online researching automata tonight and then happened to come across this post of yours… which I guess I hadn’t read before. I’ll be looking into some of these ideas!

    Also, I did find a YouTube video of a automata that writes! It was incredible. I’m not sure if you have a link to it or not. It’s bedtime and that’s where I’m headed, but let me know if you can’t find it or didn’t already see it. 🙂

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