My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Dynamism. Dynamics. They’re abstract concepts and yet, when I come to Hilda and the Stone Forest, they’re incredibly relevant. This latest episode in the rather lovely Hilda series is a book that thrives on movement and dynamic, swift lines and panels. There’s a sense of irresistible pace around it; this book is going places, and Hilda is so delightfully determined and wonderful that you can’t help but go along for the ride. Pearson’s book is good, wildly distinct stuff and it reminds me that I haven’t read enough Hilda.
But back to that idea of dynamics. It’s quite easy for a lot of readers to enter a phase of being intimidated and thus withdraw from books. Big books. Tightly worded books. Worthy books. Old people books. Children’s literature is a wonderful space to navigate but it’s also incredibly complicated to navigate. Hang around in a bookshop sometime or a library and watch the amount of children who choose without the help of a parent or guardian. A lot of that is clearly understandable and welcome from a host of perspectives, but what it does is change the nature of literacy into something that is shared. The child becomes part of a pact of reading with the adult and the text, and sometimes one of those elements will give and the walls will come crashing down. I can’t tell you anything more heartbreaking than a child telling me that they are a bad reader.
Books that use pace effectively address this. Books that use movement, and space, and time so very well are to be treasured. Hilda and The Stone Forest is a book that is full of direction. The edges, in particular, are perfect. Sometimes an image goes all the way to the page edge, providing a link between that page and the next, whilst another page will be constructed of a series of panels, all of which are reaching forward in the book. Structure. Pace. Movement. This is a story of adventure and being brave (and, sidebar, it involves one of the best mother I’ve seen for a while), and I loved it. Pearson’s work wants to be read, and it wants you to come along with it for the ride. This is generous, exuberant, lovely work – and the ending is perfect.
My thanks to Flying Eye Books for the review copy.