The Invention of Hugo Cabret

In September, I recognized an enthusiasm and strong interest in action, suspense-filled books with my kids. I have 14 students.....and 12 of them are boys. It's no surprise that they aren't crazy about fiction, female-centered novels. I mean, one of my kids brought his snake into school the first week! Many of my personal favorites have collected dust this year because I have been on a mission to prove to these boys that reading is fun and you can truly get lost in a book.

(Cute side story- in September I gave my students a survey about reading and asked them if they have ever gotten lost in a book. MORE than half of them said yes, and referenced how important a bookmark is...)

When I was in graduate school, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznickwas on the rise as a popular book for intermediate grades. The unique illustrations (all black and white, mimicking a silent film) and the general size of the book (about 4 inches thick) makes it turn heads on a bookshelf. It was a requirement for me to read during an adolescent/intermediate children's literature course. I fell in love. This is a story that you don't have to be a kid to love. Set in Paris, it's about a boy named Hugo who lives alone in a train station and is fascinated by an automaton robotic man and the man's connection to his father. It is laced with magic, mystery, suspense and heartbreak. As a bonus, it was made into a movie last year and was directed by Martin Scorsese. It also is based on a real person, Georges Melies, and his influence on the world of movies. Hugo became a household name for kids that saw the movie and enjoyed the thrill. As a true teacher and book lover, I still believe the books are always better than the movies, and this time, my kids agreed!

We started the book in the middle of September. Unsure of my students' reading levels and unable to get my hands on 14 copies, I opted to use it as a read-aloud during some of our glorious scheduling "glitches". We have 15 minute chunks of time that are just begging for a read-aloud. I was also unsure of how much my students would enjoy a read-aloud. I had this fear of 5th graders in September and was afraid they would throw tissues at me if I tried to sit them down and read to them in a group. I had a feeling that if I was going to get them to sit still for a read-aloud every day, it had to be a book that would leave them hanging on the edge of their seat the carpet. Well, they were. I have truly never had kids begs for me to keep reading a story. Even when I taught kindergarten! When given the choice for free time or Hugo, they always chose Hugo. At conferences I had parents asking me if there were more books by the author because they have never had their child come home raving about a book so much. When we finally wrapped up the book in November (yes, it took us forever because finding the time to read when all of my students are in the room is near impossible) the obvious next step was to have a movie day! I gave each student a "ticket to the movies" and invited them to bring in soda and candy to accompany popcorn. We watched it the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it was the perfect celebration to end the 10-week marking period.

Watch the trailer for Hugo here (we may or may not have watched it every day the week before our movie day)!

New York Times Review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Scholastic Book Wizard- Hugo Cabret

Here are some links that my students loved exploring while we were reading:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret- Original Book Site

Scholastic's Hugo Cabret
*Has a lot of interactive games including mazes and a Build Your Own Automaton activity.

Here is a freebie for you to have your own movie day! It's blank so you can use it for any movie. Click on the ticket to download.


  1. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for sharing this great book. I've never heard of it before. Would you recommend it for 1st graders, for me to read aloud, or is it more for intermediate grades? I love the idea of having the movie as a treat after reading the book and comparing the two.
    -Lovely Nina

  2. Hi Nina!
    I looked it up on Scholastic Book Wizard and the interest level of the book is coming up grades 4-7. However, I know a teacher who reads it to her 3rd graders every year and they love it. You should read it and see what you think! You can read more about the Scholastic Book Wizard rating here:
    I hope you had a nice Christmas!

  3. Thanks for the info. And yes I had a wonderful Christmas. Wishing you a happy new year as well!!!