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Oscars Book Review: "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" Makes You Want To Be A Kid Again

Kiran Kazalbash |
February 26, 2012 | 1:59 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter


The Invention of Hugo Cabret (theinventionofhugocabret.com)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret (theinventionofhugocabret.com)
Part picture book, part adventure-filled novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" is a tale for the young and the young-at-heart. Though its lofty 500 plus pages can seem daunting at first, Brian Selznicks’ way of story telling hooks you in to the adventure and mystery.

Hugo Cabret is an orphaned boy in the 1930s who lives and works at the train station in Paris fixing clocks as his uncle’s apprentice.  When his uncle goes missing one day the 12-year-old is forced to continue tending to the clocks so as not to be noticed by the station inspector who would likely put him in an orphanage. Hugo steals everything to survive including food, clothes and even toys.

The old man running the toy booth at the train station finally catches Hugo in the act one day and takes away Hugo’s most prized possession as punishment: his deceased father’s notebook. In the notebook Hugo’s father had drawn sketches of a machine he had been working on in the museum before he died.

Desperate to get his notebook back, Hugo follows the old man to his house and befriends the man’s goddaughter, Isabelle, who promises to help return it to him. While walking by the ruins of the museum his father once worked at, Hugo notices the Automaton (the machine his father sketched in the notebook) and decides to take it home to repair it. The Automaton is a mechanical man who is meant to write something but needs a key to start up. When Hugo and Isabelle find out her locket fits the Automaton they are exhilarated by what it creates leading them to solve the mystery of who created the Automaton and why. 

Most of the action of the story is depicted through a series of pictures, which gives the reader a sharper sense of imagination.  Each illustration is beautiful and intricate and interwoven perfectly into the story.

The book, at its heart, is about following your dreams and talents in order to be really happy in life. "Hugo" is unique not only in its format, but in its subject about the love of film and the world’s first film makers who made magic and imagination come to life.

The story itself is simple but unfortunately the characters are not as fully developed as one would like in order for the reader to fully connect to their struggle.  Because the book is so fast-paced Hugo’s own personal story seems rushed, not giving the reader his full background as well as that of the other main characters.

Because this book was not as descriptive as other children’s books, the movie version’s visuals and animated effects could only enhance the already intriguing story. The film might also do a better job of portraying the emotions and inner conflicts of the characters that was lost in the story due to lack of description.

"The Invention of Hugo Cabret" is a quick read with almost half of it consisting of either illustrations or photographs of Paris in the 1930s. Despite how old you are, however, this story definitely makes you feel all the wonder and magic of being a kid again.

Reach writer Kiran Kazalbash here



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