This is the story of Hugo Cabret, an orphaned son of a clock maker, who finds an automaton in the burned-out remains of the museum where his father died. Hugo repairs the mechanical man, and it changes his life. Along the way, he learns a little bit about himself and the world and finds out he's not all alone.
The illustrations move the story along in a way that text cannot. During the scene when Hugo falls onto the train tracks and is in danger of being hit by an oncoming train is beautifully depicted through a series of illustrations showing the train getting nearer and larger. The illustrations are very much like stills from a movie, which is appropriate given that one of the characters is the early filmmaker Georges Melies.
Here is part of a scene From one of my favorite text parts of the book, pages 374-375:
Hugo thought about his father's description of the automaton. "Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason?" he asked Isabelle. "They are built to make you laugh, like the mouse here, or to tell the time, like clocks, or to fill you with wonder, like the automaton. Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do."
Isabelle picked up the mouse, wound it again, and set it down.
"Maybe it's the same with people," Hugo continued. "If you lose your purpose . . . it's like you're broken."
. . .
Hugo and Isabelle were quiet for a moment, and then Isabelle said, "So is that you're purpose? Fixing things?
Hugo thought about it. "I don't know," he said. "Maybe."
"Then what's my purpose?" wondered Isabelle.
"I don't know," said Hugo.
Ultimately, this is a book about healing and finding purpose in life as well as those people who can help you fulfill your purpose.
A short review on a little blog, can't do justice to this book. It is well worth the read.