A Genre-bending Children’s Book

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

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 together . in “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 flipbook, 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.

—Description retrieved from theinventionofhugocabret.com

Like the book he created, Brian Selznick is a rare breed in his profession. Very few mainstream, popular children’s book authors and illustrators are openly gay. Considering their market, creators of books for children have historically been mum on the topic of their sexuality. Selznick, however, mentions his boyfriend in interviews and speeches, including his Caldecott Medal acceptance speech in January. He won this highest honor for children’s book illustrators for his groundbreaking book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Here is an excerpt from that speech:

“I certainly don’t have the words to thank my boyfriend, David Serlin. I think I can only be described as unbearable to be around while I’m working. If he says, ‘Your drawings look good,’ I get angry because he obviously knows nothing about art and can’t see all the flaws that I’m trying to fix. And if he says nothing, then I get mad at him for being unsupportive. He’s really in a no-win situation, yet he manages to handle me with patience and understanding and love. He’s a brilliant thinker, a respectful listener, and, well, I’ll say it again, a very, very patient man. I know that I wouldn’t be here tonight without you, D. Thank you.”

Thank YOU, Brian Selznick, for your willingness to be visibly gay in a line of work where this can be professionally risky.