Monday, March 22, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret was written and illustrated by the ingenious author/illustrator Brian Selznick. It won The Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children in 2008 and was made into a movie directed by Martin Scorcese in 2011. It is a wonderful story about a 12 year old boy named Hugo and the ways his life interlocks like the gears of a clock with a 12 year old eccentric, bookish girl named Isabelle and a bitter old man named George Melies. Hugo is an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station in 1930's Paris and tends the 27 clocks that keep the people and the trains on time. His father was a clock maker who died in a museum fire trying to repair an automaton - a wind-up, mechanical man that can draw and write. The automaton is partially damaged in the fire. Hugo finds it, takes it to his sparse room, and uses the drawings from one of his father's notebooks to guide him in repairing it. He is sure if he can fix it then it will create a message to him from his father.

It is a wise story that wonders, "What does it mean to be human?"

 On page 374, Hugo and Isabel ponder -

"'Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason?' he asked Isabelle. 'They're built to make you laugh like the mouse here, or to tell time like clocks, or to fill with you 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 sat it down.

"'Maybe, it's the same with people?' Hugo continued. 'If you leave your purpose, it's like you're broken.'"

I think this remarkable book asks relevant questions for us - What is our purpose? Have we left it? Is it like we're broken? Can we be repaired? How?

In Africa, we have a proverb that says, "I am because we are; we are because I am." I think our purpose is found somewhere in community. How can we build community in this broken time? Would you help me build it? Would you help me repair it?

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