Hilda and the Black Hound – Luke Pearson

4 out of 5

Very cluttered – almost to the point that it feels sloppy at points – but there’s also something inherently charming to the mess of storytelling in Luke Pearson’s fourth Hilda book, Hilda and the Black Hound, as it fits with the character’s take-things-as-they-come mentality.

We get: Hilda trying to earn merit badges in the scouts; a giant black dog ravaging the town of Trolberg; and house spirits called Nisses; with each of these things having very distinct storylines that are bounced rather jaggedly between, until Pearson ties them all together in a still cluttered but very fun conclusion. The extent to the way some details collide just sort of stumble out – as opposed to a more structured approach – is rewarding in its own way; unnamed characters suddenly are given names pages later, adding to the sensibility that Hilda’s world is in motion all the time, even when we’re not around to read about it. And as the character’s worldview expands to a larger group of friends, and to more of the town, we also learn how all of this magical realism is the norm everywhere, not just for Hilda and Mom; they may have moved to the city, but the cityfolk know all about Nisses, and are totally on board and believing in these stories about giant animals running around.

Pearson’s artwork has again evolved, coming quite close to the animated incarnation of Hilda, with very flowing, overlapping lines, and a bit more noodley with the character movements; it’s very bouncey and pleasing to look at, cast in the usual cool blues and browns.

So another friend gained – Tontu the Nisse (though note, they’re all called Tontu) – and another book of solid adventuring hijnks.