By Luke Pearson
Last time we met her, in Luke Pearson’s Hildafolk and Hilda and The Midnight Giant, title character Hilda (she of the blue hair and the stick legs) was discovering that nature held magic and wonder, if she just looked down long enough to realise it.
Here in this second full-length Hilda tale it’s one year later and Luke Pearson moves his little star and her mom to the big city of Trolberg, where she’s having a really hard time finding anything good about her new urban landscape.
Gone are the rolling snow-capped mountains, the forest, the animals, and in their place we have dreary streets and a drab, grey world of city living. Oh, what a difference a year makes….
Straight away Pearson plants you in Hilda’s world, using the first 4 pages to mirror then and now, country and city, happy and free then, constrained and sad now.
The same conversation plays out between mum and Hilda then and now, word for word, right up to the point where Mum balks at Hilda roaming the streets instead of happily sending her out to play.
Then it becomes quite clear, Hilda and her mom have lost much more than the mountains, they’ve lost their security, their sense of place. The city feels threatening, alien. Suddenly there’s tension between daughter and mum, there’s curfew, boundaries, staying in over exploring, and Hilda just can’t fathom why.
So good, so clever, immediately establishing empathy with the readership, the kids who loved Hilda enough to name it British Comic Awards Young People’s Graphic Novel of 2012.
The arguments about going out would be so familiar to every child reading this I’d imagine, as is the peer pressure Hilda feels when she does finally get to venture outside with a group of not all that nice schoolfriends.
Kindly, thoughtful Hilda is just too nice for the crowd, and it shows whether it’s being endearingly sweet to the old lady whose door she’s just knocked, or simply failing to see the fun in throwing rocks at the roosting birds.
So take one kind girl, one injured bird, and add a little magic…. and now we have a grumpy amnesiac talking bird who can’t remember how to fly accompanying lovely Hilda around a town she doesn’t know, and wouldn’t you know it, she’s a little bit lost.
Stumbling their way through the streets of Trolberg they discover something of the city, the beauty, the mystery, the bizarre, the incredible, from the mundanity of the street furniture – the doors, chimneys, lamp posts – all different, all breaking the monoculture feel – to the fantastical of rat kings and salt lions down at the docks.
Throughout it all, to go with the fantastical there’s a fantastic interplay between Hilda and the grumpy as anything bird forced to trail around together. And eventually everything draws all concerned to the Bird Parade of the title.
What Pearson delivers throughout Hilda is something so magical, layer upon layer of it, and so beautifully done, so cleverly done.
On top of the fun, the action, the sheer clever of Pearson’s tale we have the artwork. Pearson’s line, his colours, his pacing… all of it has reached a new height here. His style has altered since the last Hilda book, refined, simplified, very much less being more. Hilda’s face is so simple, yet so expressive. Hilda’s mum delivers a tour de force of emotion in body language alone.
And those colours, so beautiful. The light palette of the hills gives way to beige and brown and grey of Trolberg that only begins to open up as Hilda starts noticing that the city has its own particular delights, and then we see reds, blues, yellows. Night falls and we’re plunged into a beautiful moonlit blue, and when we see the Bird Parade… oh boy. Visual treat for you to experience all for yourself.
It is, as before, something of a triumph. Pearson may well be tired of hearing just how good he is, of just how good his Hilda tales are. We’re certainly not tired of saying how good they are.
Hilda and the Midnight Giant won the British Comic Award Young People’s Award in 2012. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to find it was at least nominated again in 2013.