Review By HOMA WOODRUM
I would consider myself a fan of sequential art and storytelling through and through but my passion for the medium ebbs and flows. I believe in comic books, I believe that beautiful and powerful stories can and do come in that form, but when I say that Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson captivated me I am talking about opening the book just to flip through and looking up many minutes later to realized I’d read the whole thing. It is that captivating and is the kind of book I can show others and say “this. . .this is what is good in comics.” Yes, I’m a 30-year-old woman but that is the timeless nature of the medium. I can read this and love it and then I can read it to my children and they can love it too.
My sister-in-law forwarded me a Slate review of this book and I was fortunate enough to snag a review copy from the publisher as the animal themes sounded perfect for Vegbooks. A young girl moves from the countryside to the city with her mother and wants to go out and explore. Her mother lets her go, despite being wary of the new city, on the condition that she stay with the neighborhood children and be home in time for them to go to the town’s bird parade together. Blue-haired Hilda eagerly ventures out with her peers but she, and the reader, quickly realize that these children are rough around the edges. Their version of playing involves knocking on people’s doors and mocking them, for example, and when it is Hilda’s turn to join in she doesn’t run but instead chats with the elderly lady that opens the door. She can’t be anything but herself and that is something kids can appreciate and relate to.
Hilda’s path separates from that of the other children when they start throwing rocks at birds and hurt one black bird in particular. Hilda rushes to his aid and it turns out that he can talk but can’t remember what task lies before him. The interaction between Hilda and the bird is well paced as they try to find their way back to Hilda’s home. I won’t give a play by play of the story but I loved everything about this book. I happened to re-watch Miyazaki’s “Ponyo” this weekend with my children and I can see where some of the comparisons come from between his work and Luke Pearson’s, but don’t let the comparison make you think this is not an inventive and original book. I think I’d say the comparison is meant to evoke that this story is whimsical but with great presence of mind.
Hilda and the Bird Parade is an adventure but it does have a number of messages that kids can come away with about everything from peer pressure to kindness to animals though none are preachy. A relatable heroine, vivid illustrations, and a host of positive messages make this a book I’d highly recommend. Now to get my hands on copies of the other two books in the series!