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Book Club Kits: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

ORPHAN, CLOCK KEEPER, AND THIEF, twelve-year-old Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric girl and the owner of a small toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message all come The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

This 526-page book is told in both words and pictures. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things. Each picture (there are nearly three hundred pages of pictures!) takes up an entire double page spread, and the story moves forward because you turn the pages to see the next moment unfold in front of you.


**Please note that this kit only has 5 copies of the book.**

Discussion Questions

  • Hugo and the old man in the toy booth each accuse the other of being a thief. Are they truly thieves? What has each one stolen? Why does the old man keep Hugo’s notebook? Why does he mutter “Ghosts…” when he looks in it? Who are his ghosts and who are Hugo’s “ghosts”?

  • Why does Hugo tell the old man his real name and follow him when he leaves the station? Why does the girl offer to help him? Why does the old man give him a job helping in the toy booth?

  • Describe Hugo’s memories of his father. Why is the automaton so important to Hugo? Is it reasonable for him to expect a “message” from his father?

  • Compare Hugo and Isabelle. How are they similar and how are they different? How do they need each other’s friendship? Why is it hard for Hugo to trust anyone? Why does he feel he has to keep secrets?

  • Why does Isabelle steal Hugo’s notebook from her Papa Georges? Why does Hugo steal the key from Isabelle’s neck? Why does he tell Isabelle that his father made the mechanical man?

  • The Introduction tells us that Hugo “discovered a mysterious drawing that changed his life forever.” When the repaired automaton creates the drawing, how does Hugo’s life change? How many other changes occur for characters in the story because of this drawing?

  • Discuss the importance of Etienne, Monsieur Labisse (the bookstore owner), and René Tabard (president of the French Film Academy) to the children. Compare their treatment of Hugo to that of the Station Inspector, the café owner, and the newspaper vendor. Why are certain adults more sympathetic to Hugo and Isabelle?

  • Why does Papa Georges try to destroy his drawings? Why does he call himself a “wind-up toy”? Discuss Mama Jeanne’s motivation for saving the drawings and keeping them hidden.

  • What does Hugo mean when he says, “All machines are made for some reason…Maybe it’s the same with people…If you lose your purpose…it’s like you’re broken.” [p.374] Discuss this comment in relation to different characters in the story. Which ones need to find—or re-find—their purpose?

  • What draws Hugo to the study of magic? Why does he choose magic as his profession? What drew Georges Méliès to filmmaking?

  • Discuss the connections between horology, automata, magic, and filmmaking. How many ways do these subjects interweave in The Invention of Hugo Cabret? Discuss Hugo’s statement: “If the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason.” [p.378] How does this belief affect Hugo’s actions?

  • Discuss this statement about George Méliès: “He was among the first to demonstrate that film didn’t have to reflect real life. He quickly realized that film had the power to capture dreams.” [p.355] Compare some of the special effects in the films created by Méliès to films you have seen in your own lifetime.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret Movie

Hugo on IMDB.

Check the catalog for availability: Hugo [videorecording DVD]