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Inventions and Adventure

Kid reporter interviews author Brian Selznick

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, is a novel like no other. There are pages of exciting events and then suddenly, wait! A picture with tiny details, then a big picture that takes up the whole page—and the next page, and the next page, and the next! The pictures are actually telling the story. It’s like a book and a movie all in one.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Selznick about his unique novel. I wanted to know just how he came up with the concept of writing a novel that reads like a picture book.

“Because the book was so much about movies and the history of cinema, I also wanted to figure out how to make a book that was also like a movie,” Selznick said.

Writing and illustrating the book was a long and hard process, Selznick said. One of the challenges was figuring out what the story was really about and what happens to the main character, Hugo. Selznick also had to figure out how to make the narrative and the pictures work together to tell the story.

Working with pictures was natural for Selznick. He has actually spent most of his career as an illustrator and really considers himself more of an artist than a writer.

book cover the invention of hugo cabret
(Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.)

“I’ve always drawn, ever since I was a little kid. I was encouraged to draw, and so that’s what I feel most comfortable with,” he said.

He still enjoys many of the things he liked as a kid. That’s why it’s not so hard for him to think about what kids would like to read in a book. In fact, sometimes he feels like a kid himself.

“It’s funny, because when I’m writing a book, I don’t really think about kids. I think about myself, what I like, and I think about the story and what’s happening in the story,” Selznick said.

But sometimes figuring out what was going to happen in the story was not easy, he told me. He had no idea what the story was going to be about when he started writing. He didn’t know if it was going to be sad, adventurous, or exciting. All he knew was that it was going to be about filmmaker Georges Méliès and a kid who finds a broken machine that he wants to fix.

Selznick turned to friends like Pam Muñoz Ryan, who is the author of Esperanza Rising, and Sarah Weeks, the author of So B. It, for advice on the book.

And all that help paid off! His book was chosen as the first book for Al Roker’s Book Club! Selznick was really excited.

“I was kind of in shock at first and kind of didn’t believe it. But I was really happy because it meant that so many more people were going to get to hear about the book,” he said.

For now, Selznick doesn't plan on writing a sequel to the book, but he warns, "You can never say never."


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    Social Studies, Literature, Literature Appreciation, Scientists and Human Endeavor, Inventors and Inventions

Scholastic Kids Press Corps

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of 32 student reporters who report "news for kids, by kids." Sports, politics, and entertainment are among the topics they cover.