Classroom Teaching Guide

Hilda and The Bird Parade

by | Jan 21, 2018

When Hilda and her mother move from an idyllic countryside—where Hilda loves to roam and explore—to an unfamiliar city, her mother fears for her safety. Despite her mother’s trepidation, Hilda sets off to get to know the new kids and her new hometown.

She struggles to understand and fit in with the rowdy local kids, and when they take to throwing rocks at birds, Hilda isn’t having it. She befriends an injured raven who has forgotten how to fly, and commits to helping him regain his memory. As she and her new friend traverse the city looking for home, we see that Hilda still carries her optimism, curiosity, and adventurous nature, which help her make the most of this unfamiliar new setting. The big finale at the spectacular parade provides some frightening moments, but, of course, all is well in the end.

In Hilda and the Bird Parade, Pearson addresses weighty childhood issues, such as the changing roles of parent and child and standing up to your peers, with heart and intelligence. Hilda lives in a fantasy world, but she is a realistic child that all children can relate to and see themselves in.  The oversized pages are brimming with color and energy, and readers of every age will find the story and the illustrations delightful. This is the third book in the Hildafolk series.

Lexile Level: GN470L

Reading a Comic or Graphic Novel

  • Read the panels on the page from left to right and top to bottom, and read within each panel the same way. You can read words and then pictures, or pictures first and then words, but be sure to read them both. Re-reading is also important in graphic novels to see how the pictures and words work together.
  • Word balloons contain dialogue. The tail of the balloon points to the speaker. Fluffy, cloud-like bubbles mean someone is thinking, not speaking. On a few pages in this book, Pearson puts dialogue in caption boxes at the top of some panels.
  • Slow down and take it all in. It is important to read both the text and the images and see how they work together. Encourage students to linger on each page and look for details in the pictures.
  • Think about what you don’t see. What happens in the gutters (the spaces between the panels)? In comics and graphic novels, the reader must actively participate by filling in the action from panel to panel.

Close Reading and Analysis

  • When reading a graphic novel together it is necessary for everyone to have a good view of the pages. In small groups, students can share copies of the book. For whole-class reading, you can project the pages with a document camera.
  • Start by asking students what they already know about reading comics and graphic novels. Review vocabulary such as panel, word balloon, caption, and gutter by finding examples in the book.
  • Have students pre-read the book by taking a quick picture walk through the first few pages. Have them turn to a partner and predict what they think the story will be about and who the characters are based on visual cues.
  • Students may be tempted to just read the text and skip over the pictures, but in graphic novels the text and the pictures are both integral to the story. Encourage students to take their time on each page and re-read at least once.
  • If you are reading the book together, give students time to look silently and carefully at each page before reading the words. Then you can have students read the dialogue on the page aloud. Finally, ask students to point out what they notice in the pictures, describing the characters’ appearance, the setting, and the action.
  • When doing close reading and discussing the book, ask students to provide text evidence from both the images and the words. Both are important!
  • Ask students to analyze the way different characters show their personalities and attitudes through body language and facial expressions. How does Pearson show what someone is thinking or feeling in the way he draws them?
  • Have students look for places where Pearson plays with the form of the comic, creating unusual panels and layouts. Ask students to think about why he uses these layouts; what does he want the reader to feel or notice? Look for:

Variations in panel size and grouping
Panel shapes other than squares or rectangles
Pictures breaking out of the panel frames
Large “splash” panels that show an expanded view
Wavy panel borders
Panels butting up against each other without gutters

  • Ask students to think critically about the use of color in this book. Pearson uses a limited palette; how does this affect the tone or feeling of the book? Why do you think Hilda’s hair is blue? How and why does Pearson show nighttime using both a red/orange palette and a blue one?
  • Pearson hand-letters his graphic novels, giving him control over the appearance of the text. Challenge students to find where he places emphasis, draws attention, or shows emotion through variations in lettering.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever done something that your parents didn’t want you to do? Or felt that they were being overprotective?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation like Hilda’s when other kids did things or wanted to do things that you know are wrong? What did you do or what would you do?
  • Do you think this story would be any different if Hilda was a boy? Why or why not?
  • What do you think Hilda learned from this adventure? What do you think her mother learned?

Reader Response Activities

  • As students read the book, have them list what they think are Hilda’s most defining physical and personality traits as shown in her actions, her words, and her appearance, citing text evidence from both the words and the pictures. As a class, create a Venn diagram showing Hilda’s character traits as shown through the words (dialogue), the pictures, and both words and pictures together.
  • Have students choose a scene from the book and work together to write and perform a Readers’ Theatre script.
  • Give students sticky notes. Tell them that as they read they should jot down on the sticky notes thoughts or questions they have about the story and place them in the book. (If sticky notes are not available, students can write on small scraps of paper and tuck them between the pages like bookmarks.) After reading, have students re-read the book in small groups, sharing their notes as they read. Here are some ideas to get students started:

This part made me laugh.
This part made me sad or worried.
This part made me wonder.
This part surprised me.
I didn’t understand this part.
This part reminds me of my own life.
This part reminds me of another story.
I would change this part because…


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