Posted in Book Review, CSU, Digital Literacy, English Literature, Reading, Teaching and Learning, YA Literature

Book Review: Hilda bewildered by Lynley Stace

This review was completed for INF533- Literature in Digital Environments as part of my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) studies.

Hilda bewildered by Lynley Stace is described by iTunes as an “illustrated short story for deep thinking adolescent readers” (2015). This story is set in an imaginary, modern European country where Princess Hilda is about to deliver a speech as part of her coming-of-age responsibilities. At the same time, another socially invisible, pick-pocketing Hilda, is roaming the crowd. The author/illustrator, Lynley Stace tells us that “each of these two Hildas is basically the same – only their life circumstance is different” (2015b, p.1). Beyond the central themes of identity and social class, this story is also a commentary on the media, advertising, the construction of beauty, celebrity and crime. The Hilda bewildered app requires iOS 5.1.1 or later, is compatible with iPad and utilises multiple functions such as intuitive navigation, hand-coded interactivity, painterly style artwork, an original soundtrack and hyperlinks. This can be classified as an interactive storybook due to the audio, visual and touch features, used to enhance the reader’s experience (Lamb, 2011, p.14). Hilda bewildered is a complex narrative that requires the reader to interpret events, characters and themes through written text, images and the exploration of digital features.

Hilda bewildered is a digitally originated text of high literary value and this is achieved through a combination of a well-developed plot, authentic characters, rich language and complex themes. The plot of Hilda bewildered is full of complexity and open to multiple interpretations. According to Stace, it can be interpreted literally as a story about two separate Hildas. Alternatively, it may be read as two fantasies in which either the princess or the pick-pocket version is the other’s fantasy (2015b, p.1). Each Hilda is a complex character with whom young adult readers will readily identify. Just like the Hildas, many teens will recognise feeling ‘bewildered’ by loneliness, the magnitude of growing responsibilities, and conflicts between their inner reality and public self. The setting of the story also adds complexity to this narrative. Even though the story is suggestive of a fairy tale, the setting has been modernised by Stace in order to address contemporary issues such as “concerns about privacy, social welfare and homelessness, urban invisibility and technology induced narcism” (2015b, p.2). Symbolism and metaphor are additional devices employed by Stace to convey meaning. The colour green, for example, is mentioned in the first line of the story. This is a deliberate ploy to clue the reader into the symbolism of this colour, which is repeated with differing meaning throughout the story. Thus, through the narrative alone, the reader of Hilda Bewildered is engaged in a rich literary experience. This experience is further enhanced by the integration of digital features.

The multimodal features used throughout Hilda bewildered are an example of synergy existing between the technical and literary elements in a digital story. According to Unsworth’s categories, this book app, which can only be accessed online and is designed to be read on a touch screen, can be defined as a linear e-narrative (as cited in Walsh, 2013, p.182).  A number of the digital features employed in this book app reward exploration by taking the viewer beyond static image and text (Koss, 2013, p.26).  Examples of these features (as seen below) include rub-to-reveal pages that offer a second image below the first layer and dialogue and graphics that are unveiled via persistent tapping (Grabarek, 2015, para.3). Because they require direct interaction with the screen, these features are integral to the story and enhance the experience of the reader (Lamb, 2011, p.17). Furthermore, animations, shimmers and flashes of light, music and sound effects are used throughout Hilda bewildered to enhance the atmosphere and mood of the story.  One such example is the use of music with a panicky, vaudevillian tempo during Princess Hilda’s coming-of-age party to represent her tension and nervousness (Stace, 2015b, p.9).  James and de Kock argue that when features such as a sound experience are used in eBooks, they can take a reader to a deeper level of immersion into the story world and the “readerly imagination in such a case is enhanced rather than made less” (2013, p.114).  Overall, it can be concluded that the digital content presented in Hilda bewildered assist the author to communicate meaning and as such add value to the narrative.

HBSS1 2015-08-30 at 8.48.43 pmHBSS22015-08-30 at 8.51.35 pm
Within the secondary school setting, Hilda bewildered could be used for a number of curriculum foci in English.  In particular, this text could be investigated in the literature strand of the Australian Curriculum for years seven to ten, to compare and appraise the ways the author has used language and literary techniques and devices to influence readers (Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority, 2015).  Furthermore, Keck and Phillips argue that in a visually-oriented world, the skills to be able to interpret and analyse visual information is an increasing necessity (2001, p.29).  The complexity of visual language in Hilda bewildered would provide an opportunity for teachers to introduce visual literacy in the classroom.

Listen to music composed by Chris Hurn for Hilda bewildered

Hilda bewildered by Lynley Stace is an example of an interactive storybook in which the multimodal content and narrative combine to produce quality literature.  The integration of visuals, audio and touch features assist the author to communicate meaning and the story presented in this book app would be incomplete without them.  It is only through touch that a number of plot elements are revealed and as such, it is not possible for this story to be experienced without interaction.  The complexities of this digitally enhanced narrative qualify it as a useful resource for teaching literature and visual literacy and it is highly recommended for the middle school years.


Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority. (2015). Australian Curriculum. Retrieved January 28, 2015, from

Grabarek, D. (2015, May 14). Hilda bewildered: Touch and go. Retrieved August 26, 2015, from

ITunes. (2015, February 17). ITunes preview: Hilda bewildered. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

James, R., & De Kock, L. (2013). The digital David and the Gutenberg Goliath: The rise of the ‘Enhanced’ e-book. English Academy Review: South African Journal of English Studies, (May 13), 107-123. doi:10.1080/10131752.2013.783394

Koss, M. D. (2014). Digital children’s book apps: Bringing children’s literature to life in new and exciting ways. Reading Today, (December 2013/January 2014), 26-27. Retrieved August 16, 2015, from file:///Users/stowh/Downloads/Digital_children_s_book_apps__.PDF.

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Keck, K. & Phillips, D. (2001). Visions of literacy. In Le Marca (Editor), Books up front: Investigating the value of reading (pp. 29-38). Victoria: School LIbrary Association of Victoria.

Stace, L. (2015a). Hilda bewildered (1.1) [App]. Slap Happy Larry. Retrieved from

Stace, L. (2015b). Author/illustrator notes for Hilda Bewildered. Retrieved August 21, 2015, from

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181-194). Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).



As the Curriculum Leader of the Mt Alvernia iCentre, my key areas of interest are: Teaching and Learning The information landscape Digital Literacy Digital citizenship Literature Reading

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