Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.
I’ve been gone for almost two weeks and I am eternally sorry for that. Not good blogging practice, I know. I promised I would finish The Witch’s Daughter but I’m also sorry to say that did not happen. I did, however, finish The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Some weeks ago, The Book Smugglers reviewed the story and I wanted to read it myself to see what the fuss was all about. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a simple children’s story made unique only by how the story is told. A great majority of the story is told through drawings and pictures. This makes the book look very large but in reality the story is fairly short.
Hugo Cabret is an orphan. When he was younger his Father found an automaton in the attic of the museum he worked at. A man made of metal and clockwork, poised to deliver some secret message. Hugo’s Father becomes obsessed with the automaton, so much so that when a fire breaks out at the museum he is trapped in his workshop and killed. Young Hugo is taken in by his drunkard Uncle, who works at the train station maintaining the clocks. The man quickly disappears himself and Hugo is left to see to the station clocks alone. Hugo rescues the automaton from the remains of the museum and becomes convinced that his Father must have left a message for him on the clockwork machine, sealing bits and pieces from the toy shop in the train station to fix it.
The toy shop owner turns out to not be who we think he is and the surprise of his true identity is probably the greatest pleasure in the story. The way the story is told, with pictures, is unique but the drawings are no great wonder themselves. The plot is simple, like The Book Smugglers state, but it is a children’s story and thus I think is perfect for the age range. As an adult, I read it because of the imaginative way the story was told, not because it is a feat of great literature.
For me, the best part was the ending:
“Time can play all sorts of tricks on you. In the blink of an eye, babies appear in carriages, coffins disappears into the ground, wars are won and lost, and children transform, like butterflies, into adults.
That’s what happened to me.
Once upon a time, I was a boy named Hugo Cabret, and I desperately believe that a broken automaton would save my life. Now that my cocoon has fallen away and I have emerged as a magician named Professor Alcofrisbas, I can look back and see that I was right.
The automaton my father discovered did save.
But now I have built a new automation.
I spent countless hours designing it. I made every gear myself, carefully cut every brass disk, and fashioned every last bit of machinery with my own hands.
When you wind it up it can do something I’m sure no other automaton in the world can do. It can tell you the incredible story of Georges Méliès, his wife, their goddaughter, and a beloved clock maker whose son grew up to be a magician.
The complicated machinery inside my automation can produce one hundred and fifty-eight different pictures, and it can write, letter by letter, an entire book, twenty-six thousand one hundred and fifty-nine words.
When it was revealed that an adult Hugo, now a magician, had created an even greater automaton than the one at the beginning of the story and that automaton had written the story and drawn the pictures we had just seen was amazing. That information was probably the greatest piece of magic that story could have told a reader. I often say that a great story depends on its beginning and its ending. The ending to this book was superb. For a moment, it put a bit of magic within our reach.
Visit the website to find out more aboout the book, the author, and the moive.