As I mentioned last week, the big news in our household is that Nowbrow press and Luke Pearson have released a new Hilda book, Hilda and the Bird Parade. I couldn't wait to get home and read this with my four-and-a-half year old daughter, who loved the earlier Hilda books when we read them together last January.
Now that I'm back from my tour, I've kid-tested Bird Parade and I'm glad to report that the book is ever bit the triumph that the earlier volume was. The blended styles of Tove Jansson (Moomins) and Hayao Miyazaki (Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro) are still prominent, but in Bird Parade, we're treated to a more urban setting, as Pearson delves into Hilda's backstory — the circumstances that led to her family's move to the enchanted valley where the first books are set.
In Bird Parade, we follow Hilda on a day's adventures after a move to the big city of Trolberg, situated right in the middle of Troll Valley. It's the weekend, and her mother doesn't want her to go out and play on her own, but she relents when some of the neighbourhood kids come around and invite Hilda out for a playdate. But Hilda quickly finds that the kids' play is too rough and even cruel for her taste, and the final straw is when they throw stones at som roosting birds and knock one out of the tree, injuring it. Hilda goes to tend to the bird, and her erstwhile friends run off.
It turns out that the bird can talk — and that it has amnesia. The injury has left it flightless and disoriented, not to mention crabby. Hilda resolves to take it home — and that's when she realizes that without the bad neighbourhood kids, she doesn't know where home is. Lost, she and the bird must roam the streets, trying to find her increasingly distraught mother.
The storyline of Bird Parade is in some ways simpler than Midnight Giant, but the mystery at its core is no less satisfying, and while the dreamlike interludes from the earlier volumes are less present in this one, there's a heightened tension as Hilda lives through one of the great childhood traumas — lost and alone, far from home — and discovers the underlying truth of both Trolberg and her relationship with her mother.
As with all the Nobrow titles, this is a beautifully made book, and as with all of Pearson's work, it is a beautifully told story. It's for sale right away in the UK, and the US and Canadian distributors will have it next March (impatient trans-Atlantic types can order it right now from Nobrow — it really is a perfect Christmas gift for a comic-loving kid in your orbit).