Devoted reader Hubert never imagined his trip to the library would lead to a real-life adventure. But when his reading time is cut short by a snowstorm, Hubert has no choice but to head out alone into the cold. After Hubert meets a kind friend, he’s not alone anymore . . . but there may be more than one voice in this hollow.
The Voice in the Hollow is both charming, mysterious and a tiny bit chilling—perfect for reading while a snowstorm blows outside. Seasoned author-illustrator Will Hillenbrand sets the tone with a pencil-drawn gatefold map of Hubert’s path, invoking other famous literary maps such as A.A. Milne’s comfortable, homey world or Tolkien’s fraught lands. It’s worth putting your nose a few inches from the page: The details—shipwrecks and lake monsters—are anachronistically delightful.
Hillenbrand keeps his narration concise and unembellished, telling us everything we need to know while letting his evocative and expansive art expound upon the rest. Hubert is instantly endearing; his love of books and sweet face is all we need to be pulled into his tale. And readers will want to pause a moment to appreciate the charm and humor of the “branch library,” with its books twirling enticingly from the tree’s limbs.
Once we get beyond the safety of the library, Hillenbrand’s art explodes. Blustery, blowing snow fills the pages with so much movement that readers will get the shivers watching little Hubert set off, head bent into the wind and clutching his book. The scenery is vast with rolling hills and towering trees. It would be easy for tiny Hubert’s imagination to get the best of him as he travels. Indeed, outlines of creatures appear in the landscape; some asleep, some mildly observant, others less benign. As picture books traditionally go, we know this will end well, but it’s an enjoyable, slightly anxious run to the finish.
While it’s easy to get swept away in the immense landscape and storm, take time to notice the captivating details on every page, such as Hubert’s tiny footprints in the snow or a streetlamp glowing warmly through the flurries. Hillenbrand’s illustration elevates this bedtime story into a work of art for all ages. Adults will also appreciate the moments of wry humor in the narration.
The Voice in the Hollow rings true with its depiction of being stranded during a snowstorm: feelings of uncertainty, peril . . . followed by the warmth and safety of finally returning home with a good story to share.