Page 45 Review by Stephen
Animated series debuting on Netflix on September 21st 2018!
Gorgeous composition of a cover for the fifth HILDA outing, and you may have already spotted a clue to one of this all-ages book's many marked departures!
We've no time to talk of that yet, for Hilda's hurried home to a less than impressed mother.
"Hey, I'm sorry I'm late!
"I totally lost track of time. I think my watch is broken.
"And I forgot to take it out with me, so that didn't help, either.
"And then Twig wouldn't stop chasing this dog..."
That's a cracking last panel with poor Twig looking round in the background, alarmed at her barefaced lie. With the raised brows and exclamation mark, he looks like George Herriman's KRAZY KAT after being hit by a brick thrown by Ignatz.
But if you think Hilda's excuses are exhausting (they did go on...!), then the pages preceding them will leave you completely out of breath. For our adventure opens immediately with Hilda and Twig giving chase to a long-legged clump of semi-sentient turf which a family of tiny Hidden People from HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT has unknowingly built their house on.
Off it gallops across a double-page spread of long, landscape panels accentuating the speed and distance travelled, as Hilda hurtles through a hole in the fence, over the top of a steep, sandy bank and tumbles downhill into a steam train terminus. Instantly then they're off again, leaping across country in pursuit of the agile and unexpectedly mobile home.
Ooof! Only when they've finally caught up with the critter do they realise how far from the city they've strayed, deep into Stone Troll territory. Now, Stone Trolls are sedentary during daylight so that's reassuring, but overnight the local farmer's fields have been plundered, his fields ransacked of their juicy crops and his goat stolen too. So that's new. As are all the fires on the mountain late at night - they haven't been seen for many years. It seems the Stone Trolls are growing increasingly active...
Now to the nub of the matter: this isn't the first time Hilda's been late or gone AWOL. There's a glorious, extended montage of past adventures - some of which we haven't been privy to yet - climaxing in some seriously sorry excuses for the states she comes back in, hilariously contradicted by the action-packed snapshots above them.
"It's these dusty streets. It just seems to stick to me."
You're going to get covered in mud if you're chased by wild onions underground.
"The puddles around here are outrageous."
So was that porkie-pie, Miss Bedraggled and Be-drenched!
"Whatever you're thinking it's not that."
Actually true: I doubt her Mum would have imagined a giant white rose splurting her daughter with bright-yellow gloop.
"Yeah, the library was fine."
Now, Hilda's Mum is no control freak (she gives her a lot of leeway) but she worries about her daughter's safety because that's what Mums do, and she just wants to spend a little quality time with her on a picnic or playing games. And they do have a lovely picnic (after a certain degree of misjudged spot-picking) but I'm afraid things come to a head when Mum denies her one night away and Hilda goes mental. Complete temper-tantrum meltdown, and she says some terrible, terrible things that made me vicariously ashamed.
But even through Hilda's mother finally puts her foot down, Hilda's never been good with temptation and the lure of a good old curiosity quest, and it's a tug of war which has radical ramifications for both Hilda and her Mum, who will be far from reassured by what follows...
On that, I shall attempt to say as little as possible, but you saw that cover, didn't you?
There's so much to relish here, not least the perils of a countryside picnic. Our Jonathan remarked, with great amusement, on how well Luke had observed all the stroppiness and backchat of a right young madam or little man in full flow.
There are brand-new creatures with fascinating and potentially useful diets to discover, and wait until you get a load of the eerie Stone Forest itself, coloured ever so exotically! There will be "Oooh!"s And there will be "Aaaah!"s when the central cavern is revealed, as vast as the vastest cathedral you've never seen.
I will say one thing: the stakes will be raised when it comes to the level of danger, but it will serve to prove that Hilda and her Mum are very much cut from the same cloth in their resilience, resourcefulness and their indefatigability.
Anyone who spoils the ending for you, in any way shape or form, should be sent to bed early and grounded for a fortnight or more.