Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Hilda books by Luke Pearson

The Hilda books
Art and Story: Luke Pearson
Publisher: No Brow Press
All Ages

At first glance, the Hilda books look like a series meant for very young female  readers – lively colours, a little blue-haired  heroine with a cute little animal companion, and an ensemble cast of trolls, woodmen, elves and gentle giants. But mistake this not for tweeness – Hilda is one of those rare series  that successfully engages readers of all ages. Each book in the series, ranging from 24 to 48 pages each, manages to pack in adventure , humour and social commentary – the Hilda books make some astute  observations on empathy, tolerance and diversity  while also giving us a refreshingly different child  protagonist . Hilda is cute and blue-haired, but she is also fearless, sensible, kind and brave. She speaks her mind, admits her mistakes, listens to her mother  and has the gumption to side with goodness, even at the risk of peer group ridicule.

Hildafolk begins the series, introducing us to Hilda, who lives alone in the mountains with her mother and tiny blue pet fox. Her days are spent roaming the fantastic wilderness around their cottage, drawing rocks (she loves rocks!), watching furry clouds sail by,  and interacting with all manner of magical creatures – bumbling giants, testy trolls, even an annoying little woodman who keeps turning up at her house.  The book has lots of humorous dialogue, yet my favourite sections are almost all the worldess spreads .

In Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Hilda’s idyllic life is shaken up by a series of tiny letters she finds in her house, that turn out to be eviction notices. It turns out that Hilda and her mother have built their cottage square in the middle of a village of invisible elves, and they have had just about enough of their clumsy giant neighbours. Meanwhile, an ominous giant looms on the horizon, seemingly watching Hilda.  So she sets out to negotiate with her elves and investigate the giant, giving us a rollicking adventure that had me in splits, right up to its surprise ending.

Hilda and the Bird Parade sees our little heroine in strange surroundings , as she and her mother are
forced to move to the city. Surrounded for the first time by people, houses, noises, Hilda is excited to explore the city and make friends. It was amusing to see her mother (an affectionate but peripheral presence in the first two books) suddenly turn helicopter parent. The city is dangerous, she says. Perhaps Hilda should stay home and watch TV instead? Hilda heads out anyway and, in helping a magical (and amnesiac) raven, makes surprising discoveries both about her city and her relationship with her mother.

A fourth book, Hilda and the Black Hound, continues to evade my readerly clutches, but I hope to find it soon. The artwork is astounding, building from a muted and moody palette in the first book, to far more richness by the third. Paired with some remarkably sharp writing, the Hilda series feels destined for ‘Classic’ status – the kind of books that offer up something new with each reading.



sathish said...

"She speaks her mind, admits her mistakes, listens to her mother"

Lovely. I have to admit that I initially thought Hilda series was only for very young kids. Thanks for the review. Looking forward to finding these books and reading them.

ranjani.sathish said...

Lavanya, thanks for reviewing this series. It sounds wonderful and I must check it for my 9 year old daughter.

Sheela said...

Both the kids at home LOVE the four Hilda books and are eagerly wanting more! The books each have a nice palette perfect for the story and the mood - am sure it is not a coincidence... What's not to like about Hilda? And Trollberg? The kids are hoping they'll find our house nisse as well :) The art work and the story, the perfect text, they all just add up to a fantastic reading experience even for adults!

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