Waking the Monsters: Hilo Book 4

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
Waking the Monsters: Hilo Book 4 Book Poster Image
Gina steps up in fun-filled, action-packed volume.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

It's a fun, silly graphic novel with not a lot of text, but at nearly 300 "pages," it's still good practice for young readers.

Positive Messages

Everyone has his or her own unique talents and interests, and embracing your differences will help you reach your full potential.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hilo and his sister Izzy are fearless and heroic, which inspires their friends Gina and D.J. to be brave as well. While Gina's love of science and literature make her a solid role model, it is unfortunate that her interest in school is contrasted directly with her mother's and sisters' love of cheerleading and makeup, which may reinforce certain negative stereotypes about options available to young girls.

Violence & Scariness

As with the other Hilo books, there are a bunch of superhero battle sequences, but they mostly involve our heroes beating up and blasting clumsy robots, none of whom actually "die."

Language

Some silly burp jokes and other juvenile bodily humor, but nothing too lewd.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Waking the Monsters: Hilo Book 4 is another silly and surreal cartoon adventure about friendship, teamwork, and finding identity. Hilo and his sister, Izzy, get extra help from human team member Gina, who finds that she can be a robot-smashing hero, too. This action-packed graphic novel features many thrilling battles with robotic enemies, but the comic book violence and juvenile humor are fine and fun for kids of all ages.

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What's the story?

WAKING THE MONSTERS: HILO BOOK 4 continues author-illustrator Judd Winick's graphic novel series about the trials and tribulations of a boy from space who, with his human friends, is fighting to save humanity from a robot invasion. This time around, Hilo's long-lost sister, Izzy, has joined the crew, bringing her special talent of quickly building machines with random abilities (a robot skunk that can cook popcorn, a robo-giraffe that speaks German and likes mangoes, etc.). As more and more giant animalistic robots emerge from the ground (a fire-breathing turtle, a hulking metallic gorilla, a laser-eyed chimp, to name a few), Hilo and his friends team up to protect the planet from the evil Razorwark's vengeful invasion. Hilo and Izzy get extra help from one of their human teammates, Gina, who dons a special robotic suit and finds that she too can be a robot-smashing hero, even if it means getting in trouble with her mom for missing cheerleading practice.

Is it any good?

Absurd, hilarious, exciting, and enigmatic, this fourth installment builds momentum in the Hilo series. The family and friend dynamics between the characters continue to evolve in each book, giving a deeper meaning to what would otherwise be a silly excursion into fantastical intergalactic warfare. In Waking the Monsters, Gina has to stand firm in her conviction that she doesn't want to be a cheerleader simply because it's expected of her, just like best friend D.J. has had to forge his own identity over the course of the past three books in the series. Hilo and Izzy have a certain depth to them as well, even though they are mostly ridiculous, humorous characters.

Even the main plot has some serious overtones, offering a critique of the dangers of human uses of machines for nefarious purposes, especially for waging war. The military is tracking Hilo and his robot foes, attempting to harness their powers for their own benefit, and the story behind Razorwark's turn toward evil shows how fear and greed can shape technological development. These heavier themes may not register with young readers who enjoy these books for the burp jokes and robot butt-kicking, but they nonetheless help ground the story in something real and profound. More of the mysterious backstories of Hilo and Razorwark are revealed, and the dark outlines of a tragic story begin to emerge -- but readers will have to keep following the series to find out the full tale of these otherworldly adventurers, since the book ends on yet another cliffhanger!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the theme of staying true to yourself in Waking the Monsters. How does Gina get her mom to understand that she doesn't want to be a cheerleader? Have you ever had to stand up for what you wanted to do? 

  • Is it possible for machines made with good intentions to be used to do bad things? Can you think of any examples in real life? 

  • What do you think is the secret in Hilo's past? Do you think it will be revealed in Book 5? What's fun about following a series where you only get revelations about the characters bit by bit in each book?

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