In the Classroom: Reading Aloud Hugo Cabret

This year I’m doing a year-long study of Charlie Chaplin and so, wanting my first read aloud book to connect, I decided to start with Brian Selznick’s marvelous Caldecott winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.   As many know it has much to do with early films in plot, art, sensibility,  and design.  Having read aloud many a picture book and the occasional graphic novel I figured I could pull off this unique hybrid of a book.

It turned out to be absolutely fantastic and even better than I could have hoped.   The handful of kids who already knew the book absolutely adored having it read to them. And those new to it were loving it too. One had dreams about it!  The cinematic quality of the drawings and text made it work perfectly alongside our viewing and consideration of Chaplin’s earliest films.  These kids are becoming expert viewers!

It was a very quick read and so I finished it yesterday, two weeks into the school year. And then I took them to the book’s website where they saw a bit more about aspects of the book and, most importantly, they saw A Trip to the Moon.

Now we are eagerly awaiting the movie.  I will be curious how the book is repackaged at that point.



Filed under Chaplin, In the Classroom, Reading Aloud

14 responses to “In the Classroom: Reading Aloud Hugo Cabret

  1. Saw Brian Selznick speak last night. Did you know he was as talented a puppeteer as he is an author/illustrator? Really amazing stuff. Anyway, during the Q&A someone asked him for his thoughts on the upcoming movie.
    Selznick said that he wasn’t very involved but did read the script and offer a few notes. He told us that the script (by John Logan) is incredible. Selznick says that where the story was expanded made thematic sense [seems like the station inspector role (Sasha Baron Cohen) is being significantly expanded in the film]. He visited the production before they started filming. Apparently everyone in the art department has a copy of the book on their desks and constantly refers to it when there is a question. Scorsese himself often goes back to the book to “figure out how Selznick solved the problem”. Sounds like staying true to the book is the top priority here.
    Selznick sounded very excited.

    Monica, did you show your students much Melies? There’s a lot of great stuff other than Trip to the Moon that’s worth seeing. Kino put out a wonderful 5 volume DVD collection of early cinema bunch of years back that’s worth checking out (he Movies Begin – A Treasury of Early Cinema, 1894-1913). Volume 4 “The Magic of Melies” includes a ton of his films as well as a 20 minute documentary on Melies.


    • Eric, yes I did know that about Brian. Unfortunately I have not managed to go to any of his NYC puppet shows. He’s an amazing guy and I can’t wait to see what he does next. (I’ve known him for decades — way back when he did The Houdini Box and worked at Eeyore’s doing incredibly cool windows.)

      I’m very optimistic about the movie. Good people are involved and the book just seems made for a movie — in a good way!

      Thanks for all the Melies info, but we are definitely not going farther. Our focus is Chaplin and I’m going to have to see just how much of all of his stuff they will want to see. (And I’ve got a few other subjects like reading, writing, and social studies still to squeeze into the school day:)


  2. I’m also a huge fan of Hugo Cabret, both the book and website(s). Besides the story, the illustrations are a wonderful way to introduce elementary students to basic camera shots and angles and to start conversations on “show not tell” writing (for which the Chaplin movies are also perfect).


  3. Monica, I know this book was part of your year-long study on Chaplin and not a focus in and of itself, but if any of your students are interested in learning more about the book creation process, I’d recommend Scholastic’s site for the book: (Full disclosure: I worked on the website when we first launched it!)

    I’d say the best behind-the-scenes tidbits are in the “Inventing Hugo Cabret” section (which you can easily get to from the “Explore Hugo Cabret” drop-down). I hope your students enjoy it!


  4. Karen, thanks. That is a very cool site. I’ll show it to them tomorrow.


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  8. Bookbrainz

    I’d like to know if when you read the book you showed the children the illustrations on a whiteboard or similar as you went along……
    I just looked at the book ‘Hugo’ – about filmmaking and this film in particular – was a bit disappointed that it isn’t really accessible to the age of the children who enjoy the original book – say 10 years on. Still, can’t have everything – if the film is good that is a plus.


  9. I actually just had the kids sit around me (18 of them) and showed them the images directly from the book. I like that closeness when reading aloud and it worked because the images are large.


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