The Invention of Hugo Cabret
By Brian Selznick
This was one of the prettiest books I read all year. And, for a kids book, it had a surprisingly serious story.
Combining excellent narrative, beautiful illustration, and a high dose of imagination, Brian Selznick has created a bittersweet and touching story, among other things, a 12-year-old orphan, a heartbroken old man, a little bit of magic, and an automaton.
Personally, I have never quite seen a book so stylistic and original. As you open the book, you are invited to follow a young boy, Hugo Cabret, as he moves stealthly through a train station. As you turn the pages, you are greated by a rising sun and soon flying through Paris until you land beside Hugo, and are immediately swept up into his story. It has a movie feel to it as you move through the pictures. Poor Hugo; he lost his beloved clock-maker father in a fire at the museum where he worked. Because of that, he has to go live with his drunk uncle at the train-station, where he keeps all the clocks running. Hugo becomes his apprentice; but soon he is doing all the work on his own. Not long after he comes to live with his uncle, the man disappears, leaving Hugo alone and scared.
Before his beloved father died, he found an automaton in the attic of the old museum. While visiting the site, Hugo found the automaton, and smuggles it back to the train station. I don’t want to give too much away to the story, for I want you to discover it for yourselves. But what follows is a journey full of magic and rescue; for the orphan Hugo and the old man Papa Georges (from whom Hugo steals toys for parts for his automaton and also a real man, Georges Melies, who lived in France and whose life this book is loosely modeled around).
Don’t be discouraged by the size, this 534 page tome is a fast read. I started and finished it yesterday. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I could not put it down. And I will definitely reread it over and over again. This novel is written for kids, but adults will find much to love in his heartwarming story of loss, love and redemption.