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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

by Brian Selznick


This is a book aimed at 9-12 year olds. So, why did I read it? Why not. Should adults be prevented from reading books just because they are aimed at children? Not at all. Should we prevent a curious child from picking up one of the adult classics? No! Books are to be read and enjoyed by everyone. Just as a child can enrich his mind and vocabulary by reading books older than his age group, we adults can be transported back to times when pictures told stories and we turned pages hungrily to see what happened next.

This book might be 525 pages in length, but there are only around 30,000 words. However there are nearly 300 pages of exquisite black and white drawings which move the story on in the same way that the old black and white silent movies did in the 1920s. In fact the artist uses techniques from motion pictures – close-ups and fades. The pictures carry no captions but you just drink them in, savouring every detail and moving through the story until, you turn a page and there is text. You turn another page and there are more drawings. Sometimes the drawings can last over many pages, sometimes just one. There is a surprise every time you turn a page.

The story – 12 year old Hugo is taken in by his uncle, the timekeeper in a railway station when his parents die. His uncle makes Hugo do all of the work, he has to keep the railway clocks running in perfect time. He also makes him steal to eat. But Hugo has a secret. He rescued a broken automaton from a burnt out museum and he is stealing clockwork pieces with the aim of rebuilding it.

That is just part of the story. The rest of it mixes fact with fiction and transports us to 1920s Paris and the birth of the movies.

I read the book in one evening. The drawings are wonderfully detailed. You will love it – whatever your age.