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Video: Al reads ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’

TODAY
updated 5/18/2007 11:48:52 AM ET 2007-05-18T15:48:52

Did you want to know what inspired Brian Selznick to write “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”?  Or if a movie will be made based on the book? Maybe you're curious about all the hidden initials. The list is endless. Lucky for you — Brian answered some readers' questions. Maybe one of them is yours!

What inspired you to write this amazing book?
— Jip of Greenwich, Conn.
Hi, Jip. A long time ago I saw an amazing movie from 1902 called “A Trip to the Moon.” It is considered the first science fiction movie ever made, and it was created by a man named Georges Méliès. I loved how strange and funny and magical this movie was and I thought one day it would be fun to write a story about this incredible filmmaker. Many years later I read a book called “Edison's Eve” by Gaby Wood, about the history of automata (very complicated wind-up mechanical figures), and there was a chapter about Georges Méliès.  The book said that Méliès owned a collection of automata that were eventually all destroyed and thrown away. I suddenly imagined a boy climbing through the garbage and finding one of these machines. That boy eventually became Hugo Cabret.

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Why do you leave the invention a mystery?
— Donavynn of Cincinnati, Ohio
Well, Donavynn, if you read the book very, very carefully, you will find that I do actually tell you what the invention is! In fact, the title might refer to several different things. It might even be the very book you are holding! I like the title “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” because it refers to something that Hugo builds (that is a clue about what it is at the end of the book) and it could also refer to the fact that Hugo invents himself.  In a way, we all kind of invent ourselves ... We can make ourselves into the person we want to be. Hugo invents a life for himself, and he even invents himself a family.

Are you going to make a movie? Because I think it would be a good one.
— Mitchell V. of New Brighton, Minn.
Thanks, Mitchell.  There is a good chance that “Hugo” will be a movie, which I think is very exciting. It would be fun to see this story —  which is so much about the early history of the cinema — brought to life on screen. We might even be able to see clips from all the early movies that are mentioned in the book, like “A Trip to the Moon” by Georges Méliès, and “ATrain Coming into the Station”, and Harold Lloyd in “Safety Last.”

Why the black pages and black illustrations? No color at all. Is this to set the stage for the story line?
— Lida H. of Northern Cambria, Pa.
Lida, you are right. In the very beginning of the book, I ask the readers to imagine they are sitting in the darkness, as if at the beginning of a movie. I hoped the black pages and black illustrations would help set the scene. You will notice that all the pages have black borders, and I think that the borders make them look kind of like movie screens. I also was thinking about the fact that the early movies were in black and white, and I thought the dark black and white illustrations in pencil would remind the reader of the old films.

Tell us about the initials that are hidden in all your books.
David K. of Frisco, Texas
Well, David K., that is a very interesting question. When I was in high school, my best friend was named...David K.! We both liked the illustrations of a man named Al Hirshfeld, who used to hide his daughter’s name (Nina) in the lines of his drawings. David asked me to hide his initials in my drawings in high school, so it became a kind of game. Many years later, when my first book was published, as a sort of surprise for him, I hid his initials, DK, in the book. Ever since then, I’ve hidden his initials in all my books. But a few years later, he got married to a woman named Valerie, so I made the initials DVK. But then they started having kids, so I had to add his daughters’ initials, too!  So now the books have the initials DVEAMK, and (here’s a clue) you can find them in one of the street scenes in “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Hey, David K ... is that you???

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