The fourth book in the HILDA series by Luke Pearson sees our little blue-haired adventurer grappling with two brand new mysteries. Taking place in a Scandinavian-inspired setting filled with all sorts of mythological creatures, Hilda and her mother have recently moved to the city after their log-cabin was destroyed — and Hilda is finding it a bit difficult to adjust.
Her mother suggests she join the Sparrow Scouts, something she was involved with as a little girl, which will give Hilda the opportunity to once again enjoy the outdoors. Immediately struck by the idea of collecting badges, Hilda embraces the club and its motto: to be a friend to all people, animals and spirits.
It’s for this reason she’s confused when her mother refuses to let her help a homeless nisse (a house spirit) or look for a giant black dog that’s terrorizing the township. Isn’t she supposed to be a good Sparrow Scout so she can earn her badges?
So, secretly, Hilda tries to learn more about why the nisse has been turned out of his house, and investigate the reasons why a giant black hound might be roaming the neighbourhood. Naturally her sincere desire to be helpful comes up against every adult’s duty of care, but there is room for some good discussion to be had on what a person (especially a child) owes another. Should we break the rules to help someone? Put ourselves at risk to do so?
As ever, Pearson creates a rich and vibrant world full of intriguing creatures and locations — this time around we discover the liminal spaces that exist behind bookcases and under beds: the places that nisses dwell in. There’s some marvellous stuff done in Hilda and the Black Hound (2014) with size and space, whether it’s Hilda squeezing herself into impossibly small places, or the giant spectre of the hound towering over streets and houses.
As ever, there’s a two-pronged mystery to solve, and Hilda faces her problems with her usual spunk, intelligence and insatiable curiosity. More importantly, the resolution is once again reached through compassion and understanding — no violence necessary!