There are two things I love about Sam Hiti’s work. One is his unique artistic style; his stuff looks like nothing else on the planet. But as much as I love that, what I especially look forward to in his books is layered storytelling. Even when I can’t read the language he’s writing in, like the Spanish comic El Largo Tren Oscuro, Hiti’s visuals communicate that there are multiple things going on for anyone paying attention. That’s especially true in longer graphic novels like Tiempos Finales and Death-Day.
I wasn’t sure then what to expect from Hiti’s first children’s book, Waga’s Big Scare. I knew I’d love the art, but what would the story be like? Fortunately, Hiti’s one of those authors who knows that children can handle more than people usually give them credit for, both in terms of story and frights. Waga is a demonic little monster that’s lost his “scare.” Hiti doesn’t explicitly describe what that means, nor why Waga will disappear if he doesn’t get his scare back by morning, but there’s food for thought there if you want to figure out what the scare represents and how it relates to nighttime. The story works on different levels.
Children and adults both will relate to looking for something that’s gone missing, just as everyone will delight in the spooky, creature-filled landscapes and scenes Hiti creates for Waga to go searching through: monster parades, creepy woods, graveyards, and dark, dank caves. There’s also a growing sense of urgency and tension reminiscent of The Monster at the End of this Book. The closer Waga gets to the end of the story, the more worried I got that he wouldn’t find his scare.
But then, why was I rooting for him in the first place? Hiti describes him early on as “the meanest, trickiest, most terrible monster that ever lived.” Do I really want him to get his big scare back? Don’t I want him to fail and disappear? It’s to the book’s great credit that the answer to that last question is “no” and I imagine it’ll be the same for kids.
Go, Waga, go! Find that scare and terrify the poop out of me.