Note: The Invention of Hugo Cabret isn’t a book in which one word comes after another, all marching in a straight line. No way—this book uses illustrations not just to complement the story, but to tell it too. What do you expect from a book that focuses on the film industry, right? In this summary, we’ll be telling you what happens in the text—and outside of it, too. But we'll be sure to tell you when we're dealing with images, and when we're dealing with text.
Welcome to the opening sequence of illustrations. The first thing we see is the full moon in a small square in the middle of a black page.
A flip of the page, and the moon is surrounded by stars, still in the middle of a black page, though now, there’s less black space.
Another flip of the page and we see the moon in the sky overlooking a grid of city lights. The tower glowing in the distance is the Eiffel Tower. Bonjour, Paris!
The next page shows the sun coming up on the horizon and all those houses and buildings (yes, including La Tour Eiffel) being lit up. And that black border around the page keeps getting smaller… It's almost as if we're zooming in.
The sun shines over a big, stately building of some sort with arched doorways and a large clock. There are old timey cars parked out front.
The next image zooms in on one of those arched doorways. There are plenty of busy-looking people coming in and out.
The next image shows the crowded, bustling inside of a building—probably the one we just saw. There are the same arches inside, and people seem to be pushing against each other. Though we mostly see the backs of people’s heads (boy is that a lot of hats!), we do see the side profile of one boy who seems to be highlighted in the picture.
Boom! The next picture is a close-up of the boy, who's looking over his shoulder, but why?
In the next picture, we see the boy going up the stairs with his hand on the finely wrought metal banister. People are going down the stairs and passing him.
The next picture shows the little boy in the middle of the large building, which has great open spaces and grand columns. And what’s that coming into the building? Are those some trains with puffs of smoke coming out the top? Ah, now we're talking. We're in a train station.
The boy goes into a large, dark hallway. Where to, little boy? Where to?
In the next picture, we see the boy inside the dark hallway, looking shifty as he stands next to a grate.
Then, we see a close-up on the fancy grate, with the boy’s hand on it. Oh, he's totally gonna open it.
A close, close-up of the grate, and the boy’s shoe disappearing into it. We didn’t know you could fit a whole person in that grate.
In the next picture, we see a shop of some sort through the opening in the hallway, with an old man sitting at the counter. The sign says “Jouets.” Must be some of that French kicking in.
On closer (literally—in a close-up) inspection, we see the old man sitting at the counter resting on his elbow. He looks either asleep or unhappy. His shop is filled with all sorts of old-fashioned toys.
Boom! Another close-up, this time of the old man’s face as he looks to the side. He has a mustache and a beard.
An even closer close-up of just the old man’s eye follows. Goodness, that’s a large eye.
On the next page, we see a big fancy clock pointed at one twenty-six.
We get a close-up of the number 5, where we can see an eye peeking through. That little boy is looking out from the clock.
Then we get the inside view. We, like the boy, are looking out on the shop where the old man is now sitting upright and talking to a little girl with a bob haircut.
Finally, we’re starting with some words. The boy who is hiding behind the clock (a weird hiding place, huh?) is named Hugo, and he’s watching the folks down at the toy booth argue.
Hugo often sees the little girl, who goes to the toy booth a lot.
Hugo also thinks that the old man might seem kind of upset because he’s noticed that some of his toys are missing—which is a fact that Hugo knows, because, well, Hugo took them.
Another close-up, this time of the girl looking over her shoulder. She has bangs and a bob haircut.
Hugo creeps through the walls (how do you do that, anyway?), and crawls through the air vent until he reaches the toy booth.
He’s about to steal a wind-up toy mouse, but the old man (who only looked like he was sleeping) grabs his arm and calls for the Station Inspector.
Hugo really can’t deal with the Station Inspector right now. That would just be way, way too complicated.
So he tries to make a run for it, but the old man stops him and forces him to turn out all his pockets.
He turns out all his pockets, pulling out screws, nails, playing cards, and all sorts of stuff. But there’s one thing that he wants to keep hidden—his notebook.
Alas, the old man finds it anyway and opens it, flipping through.
The first image shows just the old man’s big, ragged thumbnail resting on the corner of a page. The page shows some gears and a strange man—a robot, perhaps—sitting at a desk like he’s about to start writing.
The next image is that page a little closer (and more of the old man’s hand).
On the next page, the picture has super zoomed in on the strange man, whose chest seems to be made of all sorts of gears and doodads.
And the next page is just his face, which isn’t a human face. It’s more of a mask, or a robot face.
Hugo yells at the old man to give his notebook back. Who’s the thief now, anyway?
The old man asks him where he got the notebook and whether or not he stole it. Then the old guy tells Hugo that it’s his now and he just might burn it.
He seems awfully concerned with who drew the pictures, but Hugo doesn’t say anything and instead runs away.