My Red Hat, by Rachel Stubbs, (Feb. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212716
A grandparent passes on their red hat to their grandchild. More than a hat, it’s a connection between the two: a hat to keep the child warm or cool, to let them stand out… or not, to capture dreams and hide from fears. The two imagine all the places the hat will take them together, creating an enduring bond between them. This child will have a keepsake from their grandparent forever; the grandparent has given a piece of themselves. This story of love, memory, and generations is Rachel Stubbs’ debut, and it’s a quiet, lovely meditation. Spare text amid the blue and red-colored ink and graphite artwork gives depth and poetry to the story, and the artwork is dreamlike, evoking memory. A beautiful story.
My Red Hat has a starred review from Kirkus.
Now That’s a Hat!, by Heath McKenzie, (Jan. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684642212
A customer strolls into a hat store and would like a new hat. But that one’s too big, and that one’s too small… the proprietor is showing off everything he’s got, will they be able to find the just right hat? Hilariously manic, with a rhyme scheme that gets progressively more frantic with each outrageous hat. The story is almost Seuss-like, with a dog and a goat going back and forth on presenting and refusing the wild headgear: stripes, Roman helmets, potties, tacos, nothing is too wild for this hat store! The twist ending will make readers gleefully giggle as they imagine events happening all over again. Artwork and endpapers are bright, bold, and feature hats of all shapes and sizes. A fun readaloud that should definitely lead to silly hat making. Get your construction paper out!
Recommended for ages 4-8
Bear has lost his favorite hat and searches the forest, politely asking different animals he encounters if they have seen it. Just as he begins to despair ever seeing his hat again, Deer comes by and jolts his memory – he HAS seen his hat. The resolution is understated and sly, and adults will pick up on it right away; perhaps even before the children do. The book has won awards and accolades, including the Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor, but caregivers have voiced concerns over the implied ending being potentially disturbing or inappropriate for young children.
The Chinese ink illustrations are understated, as are the sandy hued backgrounds. Red is used to set off the color of Bear’s hat, and a change in emotion both in text and background. The endpapers set the mood for the story, with illustrations of the Bear and the animals featured in the story set on a dark brown background.
The book allows for a fun (and no doubt entertaining) discussion about the book’s ending. There are I Want My Hat Back-related activities on Candlewick’s website, including a printable world-building activity and a shape-identifying activity. There is also a Make Your Own Hat activity sheet that allows attendees to decorate, cut and tape together their own hat. For a bear-related read-aloud, decorate the reading area with toy bears of all sorts and encourage playtime afterwards.
Among the award and honors I Want My Hat Back has received are designation as an ALA Notable Children’s Books (2012), Colorado: Children’s Book Award Nominees (2013), Horn Book Fanfare (2011), Indies Choice Book Award for Picture Book (2012), Irma S. & James H. Black Picture Book Honor (2012), NY Times Best Illustrated Books (2011), NY Times Notable Children’s Books (2011), Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books (2011), Texas: 2×2 Reading List (2012), Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor (2012), and Virginia: Readers’ Choice Award Nominees (2013).