He stares at the old man through the five in the clock face. From his position above, the old man looks to be taking inventory. He knows it won’t be long before the old man begins to doze, but he wonders if the old man has started to notice things missing. Little things really, he doesn’t like stealing and only takes what he absolutely needs to finish his automaton.
Hugo is alone now. The automaton is all that is left of his previous life. His mother died when he was a wee boy, but he spent many happy days with his father. As museum mechanic, Hugo’s father made sure Hugo had a mind for gears, pulleys, and springs. If not in school, he brought Hugo along with him on all repairs.
Their favorite thing to work on together was the automaton. Someone had stored the lifelike man in the museum attic after it broke, and the father and son team took it on as a mission. Hugo’s father would draw its small pieces and parts in a notebook as he disassembled the work. From this notebook, he hoped to turn around and put it back together with clean pieces and parts and have a working machine.
The automaton was a little man sitting posed behind a desk with his arms raised above the desk. In his left hand resided an ink well and in his right a pen. If things worked correctly, after being wound the automaton would write something on a sheet of paper placed underneath the arms on the desk. Father and son dreamt of those words.
Ah, the old man was asleep. Hugo quickly climbed down from the attic, slipped into the alley, ran across the road, and shimmied into the cracked air grate. From there, he silently made his way to the toy booth, and his goal. He could see the old man still sleeping as he slowly moved the air vent cover.
His prize in reachable site, he outstretches his arm to grab the little blue mouse. The old man suddenly comes alive and grabs Hugo around his wrist and begins to yell for the station inspector. Hugo is doomed! If the station inspector discovers he is alone it will be straight to the orphanage and good-bye automaton. He must talk fast!
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a 500 plus-page picture book that won the American Library Association’s prestigious Caldecott Medal for 2008. I wrote article the summer of 2008, but after seeing the movie last night I want to shout to everyone, “Read this Book!”