Mysterious, intriguing and filled with the magic and wonder of early cinematic work.
1931. Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret leads an unusual life. He steals in order to survive, maintains the clocks at a Parisian train station and surrounds himself with cogs and gears and small mechanical tools and gadgets. His life is one of secrecy and hiding, one false move could see him get caught.
Hidden away in a room above the station, Hugo is obsessed with restoring an old mechanical man that he rescued from the fire that killed his father. Convinced that the figure will reveal a secret message from his father, he steals what he needs from a toy shop owned by a weary and grumpy old man. But when he is caught stealing his life becomes dramatically intertwined with the shop’s owner and with his strange god-daughter. Torn between keeping his life secret and a search for answers, Hugo finds himself thrust into a careful cat-and-mouse game where there is an even bigger mystery to solve…
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a work of historical fiction inspired by the life and work of French illusionist, actor and film-making pioneer George Méliès. It sees a young boy trying to discover his purpose in life and in doing so he helps an old man remember his and the wonderful things he achieved. It is easy to root for Hugo, he has lost everything; his family, his home, his purpose. He lives a life of anonymity, doing what he does to simply survive and holds onto the hope that the mechanical machine will provide him with the answer as to what to do next.
What makes this book stand-out is that it is like nothing I have ever read before. It is presented as part graphic novel, part picture book and part novel. The unique reading experience often feels like you are watching a black and white movie. The illustrations do not simply show what the text says, the illustrations are the story. And for some sections you are treated to page after page after page of glorious artwork as the story unfolds right before your eyes. Scenes vary from wide perspectives to close up shots - just as they do in the cinematic world - and each one demands careful attention. It would be easy to skip over the text such is the quality of the artwork but to do so would be to the detriment of the overall story, the text is needed to make the story whole.
There are twists, turns and surprises in store, and as secrets are revealed and truths are shared, everything - like the cogs and gears that are so much a part of Hugo’s life - clicks wonderfully into place.
Recommended for 9+.