Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Reviewed First Mate Keira

Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 533 pages
Grade Reading Level: Grades 3-6

Summary: Hugo Cabret is an orphan and he lives inside the walls at a train station in Paris. His uncle had trained him to fix the station’s clocks before he disappeared. Now Hugo runs around doing his uncle’s job and steals when necessary for food and drink and sometimes from a toymaker for parts to a mysterious invention. If he could get it working perhaps he will find one last message from his deceased father.

Why I started this book:

I saw the movie (Eep! I know movie before book! Shame on me, but it happens.)


  • In the book we see that Hugo steals because he can’t cash in his uncle’s checks. The movie sort of implies that the uncle has taken them without given Hugo any.
  • This book is full of illustrations done in a way to imply motion picture story tabling. This makes the book great for kids who don’t normally read big books. There are 284 pictures in the book’s 533 pages. Plus they help tell the story! Cool!
  • The typography settings and page layouts sometimes fill the whole page, but there are a lot of pages with just a little amount of text on them. Another great reason kids who don’t read big books would like this one.


  • Hugo does not invent the invention so the title is a bit of a misnomer. He fixes an automaton his late father found in a museum.

Book vs. Movie:

(Not all differences, but some that stood out)

  • In the book, Hugo and Isabelle are extremely antagonistic with each other and try very hard to get the other to reveal their secrets. The movie gives them more time to become friends, but also the script has them confiding into each other willingly for the most part.
  • In the book, Hugo and Isabelle have an adult friend sneak them into the movies. In the movie, Hugo insists on showing her a film (something she’s never seen before) and gets them into the theater by picking a lock. They are later caught and tossed out.
  • In the movie, Hugo persuades Isabelle to let him use her heart shaped key to start the automaton, but in the book, Hugo steals the key from Isabelle, which leads us back to the first bullet on this list.

Final Thoughts: I like the fleshed out story in the movie over the book. It appealed to me more.

Buy: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Rating: 2.5 Treasure Chests

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Review: The Secret Prince by Violet Haberdasher

by First Mate Keira

Title: The Secret Prince (Knightley Academy, Book 2)
Author: Violet Haberdasher
Format: Trade Paperback
Page Count: 503 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Summary: Knightley Academy is back in session for the last term of the first year. At school, Henry Grim and his friends notice that their professors are making very pointed changes to the curriculum. It seems that Knightley Academy wants it’s students to learn the art of war, something disallowed by the Longsword Treaty, and everyone’s working on finding legal ways around it. Havelock teaches about past revolutions, a new drills professor teaches them how to march in parade, their fencing instructor points out strategies in combat against another opponent, and more. Change is coming and nobody can avoid it, especially not Henry Grim.

Why I started this book:

I found the first book of the Knightley Academy trilogy on the new YA releases shelf at my local library and totally loved it. Sometime after The Secret Prince had a release date I wrote an email to the book publicist, explaining who I was and why I wanted the book. I was given an ARC copy and I promptly read it within days of its arrival on my doorstep.


  • The title is a big clue to a certain revelation in the last half of the book. I should have guessed who the Secret Prince was, but alas I did not. Good job! I also like what this means for the Knightley Academy Trilogy. It’s such a neat plot twist.
  • I like how Valmont and Henry end up as allies. Not something you usually see in a series and I really liked it. I can’t imagine Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter ever getting along like this. ;)
  • The Secret Battle Society – how wicked cool is that? I liked how everybody ended up teaching skills they knew, learned/mastered to the others.
  • The friendship between Adam Beckerman and Henry Grim, even as it’s tested by liking the same girl. Henry watches out for Adam in the Nordlands. Adam sticks by Henry through thick and thin and tries to keep the mood light.
  • Adam, Frankie, and Henry’s time at Partisan Keep as school servants.


  • I’m not sure how I feel about Rohan splitting from the other two boys. He couldn’t stay as he was with his overly cautious and disapproving air. That just wouldn’t have worked. Usually this type of division doesn’t occur with best friends in YA books, but it was realistic to the story.
  • Frankie (the only girl in the trilogy with any real page time so far) got on my nerves in this book. She didn’t stay there, but she said and did lots of stupid things. She’s a gal out of time that one.
  • The doctor… the scary bad guy who “cures your health” in Nordlands. I don’t want to give much away here, but this guy has got to be taken down by the end of the trilogy or else I will not be happy! lol A bad guy if there ever was one.

Last Minute Thoughts: I really like how this series is shaping up and I can’t wait for the conclusion. Book two is a strong addition to the trilogy and really sets the story up for the final resolution.

Buy: The Secret Prince (Knightley Academy), Knightley Academy

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

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Audio Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Reviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Format: Audio Book
Narrator: Catherynne M. Valente
Listening Length: 7 hours and 17 minutes
Grade Reading Level: Ages 10+

Summary: September is twelve years old when she is whisked off to Fairyland on the back of a spotted leopard. Her adventures there reflect tales like The Phantom Tollboth and Alice in Wonderland. Will she make it out in one piece or will she lose herself there?

Why I started this book:

I saw much being made of it in the blogosphere and had to check it out from my library. Cool idea!


  • I like that September chooses the path through fairyland that causes her to lose her heart, but in fact gains one along the way as she comes to care for different members of the world.
  • I like the Wyverary – a creature that’s part wvyern and part library. His mother was a wvyern and his father the library. The Wyverary’s name is AL (short for A to L… which incidentally is all the Wyverary knows, anything that doesn’t start with a letter between A and L is lost to him.)
  • I really like the Marquess and how that plays out. I was expecting the Marquess to be September or something crazy for 90% of the novel, but right before the big reveal I caught on to what was really going on behind the scenes. Good job!
  • The bicycles!!!


  • I’m not big on the repetitive phrasing that children are heartless, I do get why it’s in the novel over and over, but it still grated me every time I heard it.
  • Also there are one or two things that I felt were a little too too out there – in particular and most notably the reference to September eating the fish she catches – raw, bloody, gory… and also the part where September faces death (creepy much?) to get a weapon unlike any other in fairyland.

Last Minute Thoughts: It ends with the idea that there could be sequels in the works which should be interesting. If you like Victorian (Gothic!!) fantasy you will like this book. I highly recommend it as an audio book. The author made a great narrator.

Buy: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Rating: 3 Treasure Chests

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Review: Knightley Academy by Violet Haberdasher

by First Mate Keira

Title: Knightley Academy
Author: Violet Haberdasher (aka Robyn Schneider)
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 469
Grade Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Summary: The Midsummer School for Boys is cursed. Not a single student has been accepted to Knightley Academy in years… and this year is no different as a servant boy is the one called to knighthood.

Knightley Academy explores social and national prejudices. The world has overtones of racism, classism, religious intolerance, and more. The world is stable for now but is on the cusp of change and I have a feeling Henry and his friends will be that change.

Why I started this book:

I came by this book in a completely random fashion. I saw this huge fat spine on the new YA releases bookshelves at the library while searching for something for my sisters. Picked it up, read the cover, said to self – sounds like Harry Potter without magic! Checked out. Consumed.


  • The quartet: Henry Grim (first commoner ever allowed training to become a knight), Frankie Winter (a finishing school dropout), Rohan Mehta (an Indian boy adopted into a wealthy ducal family), and Adam Beckerman (a Jewish boy skilled with a foil.)
  • Lord Havelock, the military professor and head teacher for the first years. He reminds me of Snape, but far more fair and willing to own his errors. I particularly enjoy his Havelook of Doom +2.*
  • The Victorian England Steampunk world filled with the odd combination of progress and backwardness.
  • Valmont: he’s a bully but he’s not a complete ninnyhead.
  • Knight classes! Military History is just the beginning — one of my favorite classes next to Fencing and Languages.
  • The Inter-School Competition and Henry’s discovery of a super secret hidden room that spells out T-R-O-U-B-L-E and gives the trilogy its long plot arc.

(* Doom +2 is a card in the Munchkin card game.)

Last Minute Thoughts: If you’ve read Harry Potter and liked it, you will like this novel. The books have parallels but they are not the same story. Haberdasher will surprise you with her twists and turns. This is a perfect story for boys, but girls will like it just as much!

Buy: Knightley Academy

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

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