This lovely book was bought for me as a birthday present this year. This edition makes the perfect gift because not only does the book look fantastic, even before you open it (huge hardback with gold edging, intriguing illustration suggesting secrets and mystery), but it includes a DVD with an interview with the author. It leaps off the shelf begging to be opened, leafed through and then read. Just holding it in your hand lets you know that you are in for something special.
The book is unusual because it tells its story through words and pictures. The pages of text are interspersed with beautiful pencil drawings that play like an old silent film, drawing you into its pages. It tells the story of a young boy who secretly lives in a railway station in Paris, 1931. Living by his wits and saddened by the memories of his dead father, he is determined to re build a mechanical man that his father had begun, believing that it may hold a message for him. Involving a toymaker who he steals parts from and the toymakers god daughter, Hugo is embroiled in an adventure where each page takes him further into mystery, revelation and also a new beginning.
Even though it has over 500 pages, I read this book quickly because many of them are drawings, and some pages have only short bursts of text, while others are full page. I found I easily worked my way through 50 pages without realising.
The story is captivating and I was quickly rooting for Hugo who seemed to fall on bad luck and unkindness at the beginning. Hugely inventive with lots of twists and turns, there were times when I couldn't stop reading onward to find out its secrets and there are plenty to be discovered along the way. The interspertion of real historic images, tantalisingly dribbled in amongst this childrens tale, frequently had me enquiring where on earth was it leading. There are many lovely surprises. Fans of old black and white cinema will love it, or those with a keen sense of nostalgia. Generally though, there will be few who fail to take anything from this book.
It did feels as if 2 stories have been linked together, because of the scale of the revelations in the 2nd half. It is however all one story, continued and neatly brought together at the end. As with all childrens fantasy, there has to be some suspension of belief, mainly regarding the coincidences along the way. But these were easy to read over because of the nature of the story and the range of age groups that it is aimed at.
This book was a delight, one that I will pick up periodically to admire the drawings, relive the story, and recommend to young and older people alike.
Hugo Cabret's official website can be reached by clicking on the link.
There is also an interactive website where you can see some of the drawings in the book.
Also there was an excellent review of Hugo Cabret in the Guardian
Thank you to my friend for such a lovely present!