Before you begin this 531-page novel told in words and pictures, you are asked to “picture yourself sitting in the darkness, like the beginning of a movie.” As the images unfold you slowly see the moon rise over 1931 Paris, and eventually zoom in and focus on a young boy moving rapidly through the crowds of a vast train station. When the words finally start, we learn that this is Hugo Cabret and that he is an orphan who lives alone in the walls of the station where he maintains the numerous clocks located throughout the building; and he is a thief. We also learn that most every night Hugo works on rebuilding a mechanical puzzle that he hopes will someday reveal a message from his dead father.
Part mystery, part coming of age story, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a loving tribute to magic, family, and the genius of silent film pioneer Georges Melies (where did that come from?). Although described as a book for young readers, this book is accessible to anyone who is willing to suspend belief for a while, let the story frames roll and refrain from flipping ahead to sneak a peek.