4 out of 5
A cluttered but gloriously inventive second entry in Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, Hilda and the Midnight Giant is an interesting shift: it’s more hectic, and more “comic book” in page layout than Hilda and the Troll, and perhaps as a result, we see Pearson’s style somewhat evolving as well, becoming a bit “cleaner;” less storybook and more cartoon. None of this is bad, and, just as the story takes a bit to put its pieces together, feels thematically tied to things: Hilda and her mum are faced with the possibility of having to move out of the forest, thanks to threats and physical assaults from the Elven Valley Counties – an invisible race of tiny people! – and by book’s end friends are made, but daughter and mother have also recognized that they’re once comfy and cozy home has drastically changed.
The discordance of mentioning threats and physical assaults in a kid’s book is of the same unique tone Pearson brought to Hilda from the start, and is well maintained here: a magical world in which scary and bad things can still happen, as perpetuated by elves and giants, but that can be resolved by filling out the proper paperwork, or doing some research via the books in the Wood Man’s home. It’s this brilliantly natural mash-up of rationale and fantasy, allowing it tread a wavy line between adult and child points of view, though carried by Hilda’s rather steadfast way of just trudging into the middle of things to resolve them.
The Elven storyline is interrupted by Hilda spotting a giant creature watching her at night, and then bounces back and forth between the two, somewhat disturbing the sense of stakes of either. But the parallels found in each plotline are clear, and when Pearson very successfully ties them together, it really is worthy of applause, satisfying story-wise and in the way it adds to his characters and the world.
A bonus page detailing the various Giants of lore is lots of fun.