The spanking hurt, but the humiliation, the laughter of her siblings, hurt more, and the girl went to her room, curled up in a blanket in the corner. Tight, tight, tight, she pulled the blanket around herself, and she thought, angry and bitter, “You are NOT my real mother! Somewhere, my real mother is out there, and SHE cares about me. She would NEVER treat me this way!”
Maybe that’s a universal dream–the dream of finding our ‘real’ parents. All my misery can be explained by the fact that I’m adopted–that’s it! And something tragically romantic happened to my real parents–they never would have left me here with these common folk otherwise. Yes, that’s it–my early life is shrouded in mystery, and I–why, I might even be royalty!
It’s a story we glory in, and we read it over and over:
–Harry Potter, brooding in his cabinet under the stairs, soon to learn he’s the heir to a debt of great honor;
–Luke Skywalker, stranded on Tatooine, whose parentage will bring him joy and horror–and a launch into a world he could only dimly imagine;
–King Arthur, hidden away by Merlin, left with a foster family, so the jealousies and tempests of a Game-of-Thrones-like world would pass him by until the time came for him to rule;
–Oedipus, spirited away by a kindly shepherd who couldn’t bear to see the babe murdered at the behest of his father the king…
…and Hugo, the boy behind the walls in the Paris train station: the boy who wound the clocks and stole the toys; who piled up his uncle’s paychecks and filched milk and croissants for his supper. Hugo, who knows the clockwork automaton has a secret to reveal. That secret, Hugo hopes, will reconnect him with his father who died in the museum fire.
The automaton, though, survived.
Oh, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a satisfying story! A mistreated, orphaned child, through persistence and cunning, finds the answers. In finding them, he also finds a family,–a true family, one that, after he has earned their trust and admiration, values and welcomes him.
It’s every disgruntled child’s dream.
And it’s a lovely book. The pages are black-bordered, and text is interspersed with what look like pencil and/or charcoal drawings. Sometimes the pictures tell the story, and sometimes the words seem like ropes to guide us as we search for the next picture. Together, the words and the drawings create a wonderful world. It’s a gritty world, too, where fathers die and ne’er-do-well uncles surface and disappear, where injuries happen, and people steal from each other, and vendors are quick to believe the worst of a young and hungry child.
But the child, Hugo, never stops trying to reach that thing, that mystery, that core inside himself, that will explain things, justify things, propel him into a better, brighter, more significant world.
Damned if it doesn’t work.
I so enjoyed The Invention of Hugo Cabret.