Earlier this year, my son and I fell in love with the Hilda animated series on Netflix. Hilda is based on a series of graphic novels by Luke Pearson and has now spawned a spin-off series of chapter books as well as the animated TV series. With a new graphic novel – Hilda and the Mountain King – due out in September, my son and I recently spent time over summer reading all the existing books and comparing them to the TV show we love. Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
Hilda Chapter Books
We started out by reading the three Hilda chapter books which are co-written between Luke Pearson and Stephen Davies and are all aimed at a middle-grade audience. The books are fun and easy to read, roughly following along with Hilda’s TV adventures but occasionally taking different turns or mixing up events into a different order. This makes them interesting to read, even for those who have already watched the show. The artwork in the Hilda chapter books is based on the TV adaptation rather than the original graphic novels, so it may be more familiar to those of us who discovered Hilda through Netflix.
Hilda and the Hidden People is the first of the Hilda chapter books. The story here roughly covers episodes one and two of the TV series with Hilda and her mum living in the wilderness and dealing with attacks from tiny, invisible creatures while Hilda encounters a troll, helps a giant, and liaises with the tiny (and very bureaucratic) elves that live in the same valley. I found that the characterization here was a little different from the TV show – Hilda’s mum seemed harsher and Hilda herself a more unpleasant character at times. There were also noticeable points where the plot was different to the TV episodes so this isn’t a 100% pure retelling although it was the closest of all the books.
Hilda and the Great Parade takes this distancing from the TV series further. While the plot is broadly similar to the events of the TV show, this second volume is clearly a distinct story in itself. Hilda and her mum have now moved to the city of Trollberg where Hilda attends school. She hates the rigidity of city living compared to her previous life in the wilderness, and scoffs at a school project to create displays on the theme of “Wonderful Trollberg”. After rescuing an injured raven and beginning to explore the city with her school friends, Hilda gradually learns that perhaps living in Trollberg isn’t as bad as she once thought.
I enjoyed this one the best of the three chapter books thanks to the way it explores deeper into Hilda’s thoughts on her move to Trollberg, an event which was a little too smooth on the TV show. There is a lot more tension between Hilda and her friend Frida during their early friendship than I was expecting and some of the divergences from the story I was expecting really took me by surprise as well.
The third and final (so far) Hilda chapter book is Hilda and the Nowhere Space. Hilda is now a member of the Sparrow Scouts but struggling to earn any badges. She hopes to earn her camping badge one weekend but finds her attempts scuppered by a gathering of nightmare spirits and an ominous black hound. While the hound terrorizes Trollberg, Hilda befriends a house spirit who has been cast out of his home, but when she begins to find more and more evicted house spirits, she soon discovers that many of the events happening around her might be related.
Both my son and I enjoyed the chapter books but due to their familiarity from the TV show, they felt more like retreading old ground than setting out on a new adventure, barring the occasional unexpected detour. Still, I am already hoping we see more of these adaptations covering later episodes (and hopeful new seasons) and I know we’ll be picking them up for fun, easy reads.
Hilda Graphic Novels
After the chapter books, we tackled the five Hilda graphic novels. The Hilda graphic novels came before the TV adaptation and this is noticeable from the different look of the artwork. While the events of these graphic novels clearly inspired the TV show, they are very different stories with events taking place in a very different order and changing their context significantly. For example, on the day of the bird parade in the TV show and chapter book, Hilda’s mum shows Hilda a great viewing spot on a high wall because she remembers going there as a child, however, in the graphic novel, Hilda shows her mum the same viewing spot because she was taken there earlier that day by some kids from school.
Hilda and the Troll is the first graphic novel and begins us off at the same point as the chapter books and TV show, with Hilda living in the wilderness with her mum and Twig. In this short volume, Hilda explores her surroundings, coming face to face with trolls, sea spirits, woffs, and other magical creatures. One thing that really surprised me in this book was the characterization of the Wood Man who is a lot more friendly, helpful, and talkative than in other versions of the story – something that continues through his later appearances.
In Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Hilda deals with problems both very tiny and very large indeed. She and her mum are fending off attacks from tiny invisible people while Hilda tries to help a giant who has started appearing near her house every midnight. This was the most familiar of all the graphic novels with a plot almost identical to that of the chapter books and TV show.
One thing I really loved about this version of the midnight giant story was a bonus feature at the end of the book. Titled, The Giants of Old, this double-page spread looks like it’s been taken from one of Hilda’ books and introduces us to 20 of the ancient giants. We get to learn their names, personalities, and relationships to one another. It’s a really lovely extra that really adds something to Hilda’s world.
Hilda and the Bird Parade sees Hilda and her mum relocated to Trollberg where Hilda is struggling to accept her new surroundings and rules from her mum who doesn’t like her going out and exploring alone anymore. However, it doesn’t take Hilda long to find magic in the streets when some children she knows from school injure a talking bird. This ended up being one of my favorite books from the graphic novel series. I loved how it explored the move to Trollberg from both Hilda’s perspective (frustrated at her new lack of freedom) and her mother’s (worried about new threats Hilda is unprepared for) and brings them together as they begin to see more eye-to-eye by the end.
Hilda and the Black Hound introduces the nisse (house spirits) along with Hilda’s new friends David and Frida who she meets through joining the Sparrow Scouts. A monstrous Black Hound is terrifying Trollberg and spreading fear across the town, but Hilda is always up for an adventure and soon she is deeply involved in the situation as she tries to balance earning badges for Scouts with helping the creatures around her. I loved how much more detailed the world of the nisse became in this book and also how we saw Hilda making more effort to accomplish badges, however futilely, which felt more in-keeping with her character.
Hilda and the Stone Forest is the last of the graphic novels for now and was completely new to me with no plot elements yet seen on TV or in the chapter books. Hilda and her mum are starting to fall out over Hilda’s insistence on constantly going out and having adventures – adventures that seem to be getting increasingly dangerous and are now often dragging in other people as well. A fight between them results in the two being thrown into the land of the trolls where they must work together to escape, both coming to see the other’s point of view in the process. This book is also the first to end on a true cliff-hanger, one I hope will be resolved in the forthcoming graphic novel Hilda and the Mountain King which is released in September.
I found this book especially interesting as I found that it tore my loyalties. I wanted to read about more of Hilda’s adventures but also found myself sympathizing with her mum who only wants her daughter to be safe. With a son of the age where he is starting to head out and explore his world away from me and the rest of his family, I can really understand Hilda’s mum’s feelings in this situation but I also empathized with Hilda’s feelings of being stifled.
I fell in love with the Hilda graphic novels, even more so than the TV show or chapter books. The stories have a whimsical feel and combine an ideal of childhood freedom with a sense of real danger lurking nearby, Hilda’s adventures are the stuff kids dream of. I also loved the little bonus features hidden at the end of the earlier books and hope we see a return of these in forthcoming books.
My nine-year-old son also loved the graphic novels, as did his eleven-year-old cousin when she came to stay. During a long drive, they had a stack of all five in the back of the car with them along with their iPhones and tablets, yet neither of them picked up a device for the entire two-hour drive because they were so engrossed in the graphic novels – something so unexpected that I honestly worried if they were both feeling OK!
I did notice that each of the graphic novels has increased in length, however, I felt that they lost something because of this. There’s a lot more action and dialogue in the more recent books while the older titles had more of the beautiful atmosphere that drew me into Hilda’s world. The books you prefer will almost certainly differ depending on your reading preference, but I was sad to feel that magical atmosphere slip away in favor of more drama.
I can’t wait to pick up Hilda and the Mountain King in a few weeks and read more of Hilda’s adventures.
GeekMom received these books for review purposes.