‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret,’ A Book Full Of Sketches And Secrets
The year is 1931; the city, Paris.
Hugo Cabret is an orphan with no one in the world for company except a broken automaton, a robot-like machine his father found in a museum before dying in a fire. Hugo lives in a station and winds all the clocks twice a day to keep them running on time. When he’s not working, he’s trying to figure out how to fix the automaton. Hugo’s father had diligently worked on sketches and diagrams to fix it before he died, and the machine and notes are all that 12-year-old Hugo has left of him.
Disaster strikes when Hugo loses the notebook to an ill-tempered toymaker and gets drawn into a world he never knew existed. He forms an unlikely ally in the toymaker’s goddaughter and discovers the world of cinema that is nothing short of magic. Hugo Cabret’s life is about to change forever. He only needs to fix the automaton – without the aid of the notebook – first.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a wonderful story for kids about family, magic and second chances. Hugo’s desire to connect with his father through the automaton tugs at the heartstrings and lets the reader sympathise with this lonely, little boy who must steal to make ends meet. All the main players in this story have secrets, which makes for a rich and many-layered supporting cast. Through them, the book subtly shows that secrets not only have a way of getting out, but also can enrich your life in unimaginable ways when they are shared.
The experience of reading this older children’s book is as important to the magic of Hugo’s story as its characters. Part-traditional-novel, part-graphic novel, this 500+ page chapter book has 284 pages of gorgeous black and white sketches that often take the place of words to drive the story forward. Some pages contain only short paragraphs or single sentences, adding a sense of mystery and urgency to Hugo’s story as the illustrations bring to life Paris, the train station and the rest of his world. Brian Selznick is both author and illustrator of this wonderful story for kids that was adapted into the 2011 film Hugo. Kids aged 10 and up will love this beautiful example of prose and art working together.