This beautifully crafted children’s book tells the tale of Hugo Cabret, a young boy in 1937 living inside a train station in Paris ever since his father died. He keeps the clocks running. Meanwhile, in his spare time, he is working on putting back together an automaton, a little mechanical man sitting at a writing desk. Hugo feels that if he can just fix the device, that the little man wants to write a message just for him.

Meanwhile, he gets tangled up with a grumpy man and his daughter, who works at a toy shop near the railway station. Finally, there is a thread of the cinema that Hugo loves so much. We know that somehow all of this is connected, but how?

To say any more would spoil the fun, but this is a really nicely done story. What makes it so outstanding, however, is that the book is a cross between picture book and novel (thus why it looks formidably thick on the bookshelf but is actually a really easy read). Sometimes the pictures take over and we have page over page of illustrations carrying the story forward – then other times there are texts. It’s a bit strange to start with, but once you get used to the style, it’s quite charming.

I can understand why Martin Scorsese has decided to make this his first children’s film (and his first 3D film).

A great read, and proof that e-books won’t be able to replace books straight away, if they keep making attractive illustrated volumes like this.

4 out of 5.

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