Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret symbolizes an important moment in my life: it was the first book my son recommended to me. He and my husband both listened to the audiobook, and my son was bubbling over with talk of automatons afterword. I picked up the novel the next time we were at the library and was just as excited about the book as they were, but I felt badly for them that they had missed the fantastic illustrations. As soon as I finished the novel, I passed it on to the kid who also loved the pictures.
The novel focuses on the life of young Hugo Cabret. Hugo’s father died in a fire, and Hugo has been living with his uncle who fixes clocks in a Paris train station. Hugo hides his uncle’s unexpected death from the station inspector and continues fixing the station’s clocks to maintain the illusion that his uncle is still alive. He’s struggling, though, and is eventually caught stealing by Papa Georges, a man who sells clockwork animals in the station. Hugo is stealing parts to fix an automaton that his father was working on at the museum, and his obsession with the automaton gets him tangled up in the lives of Papa Georges and his goddaughter Isabelle. The story is really lovely and complicated and sweet all at once. My kid has great taste in books.