The Invention of Hugo Cabret
This story takes place in 1931 Paris. Hugo Cabret, a 12-year-old orphan, maintains the clocks at one of Paris’ train stations so no one notices that his uncle -the actual station’s timekeeper- has disappeared, and so he can keep on living in his uncle’s work lodging. Hugo’s goal is to repair an automaton that his clockmaker-father had found in a museum he was working in before tragically dying in the fire that destroyed that museum. In order to fix the automaton, Hugo is following the drawings and instructions in his father’s remaining notebook, and using parts he steals from an old man’s toy booth. The old man catches him stealing, and takes his notebook away. Hugo starts working for the old man in the hope of recovering his notebook, but he discovers he can fix the automaton on his own using the little toy parts he continues to steal. Thanks to a key he steals from Isabelle, the old man’s goddaughter, the automaton he has fixed springs to life, and draws a picture that Hugo recognizes as being from a movie his father once told him about. The automaton signs “Georges Méliès”, which happens to be the name of Isabelle’s godfather. This discovery sets Hugo and Isabelle on a search for her godfather’s mysterious past life that will reveal an unknown world of images and magic to Hugo and Isabelle, and change their lives.This book is highly unusual in that it combines words, drawings and pictures (taken from actual early movies). The drawings and pictures are an integral part of the narrative, and the author has successfully managed to seamlessly integrate all three medium in order to tell his story. The book recounts part of the life of visionary early French filmmaker Georges Méliès. From what I have read on this filmmaker’s life, the details about his professional life seem accurate and well-researched. Early cinema as well as clock and automata workings are extremely well-researched as well, and masterfully woven into the storyline. However, this is much more than a historical fiction book. It is also, and perhaps most importantly, a book about a boy, his emotions, and his life struggles and hopes. In my opinion, this book is close to being a masterpiece in its own “mixed-medium” genre. I found the illustrations to be particularly stunning, and although the sheer size of the book can be a deterrent at first, one soon finds out that it reads quickly and effortlessly. This book can be enjoyed by children, teenagers and adults alike. For children, I would recommend this book for ages 9 to 12.