THE HAT SHOP
Written by Sally Cox
Illustrated by Marie Wilkinson
Pegasus Books 5/28/2020
44 Pages Age 4—8
. . . . .DEBUT
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fantasy
Themes: Poetry, Adventures, Magical Hats
Two unlikely friends run a most unusual shop, where they make and sell magical hats. Hats of all shapes, sizes AND smells that once placed on your head will transport you to destinations beyond your wildest dreams. Adventures that are funny and maybe even yummy await, so join the queue for ‘The Hat Shop’ and step inside. (from publisher)
“Mike is a polar bear, Mouse is a mouse,
and they live at the top of their very tall house.
They make their money and put food in their tummy,
selling magical hats to you and your mummy.”
Why I like The Hat Shop
Mike and Mouse (“Mike is a polar bear, Mouse is a mouse,”) make and sell very popular hats. Mouse does the sewing and Mike makes the magic powder that makes the hats like no-one else’s. Each morning there is a line of people snaking around the corner, waiting their turn to buy a hat. The store is a tad unusual, with a large tree sprouting in the middle with a witch flying around it on her broom. Customers stand on a “stump” to choose their hat and pay their fee; all while Mike stirs a cauldron chanting nonsense words. He then instructs one customer to drink, one to chew, and one to strike a pose, starting their respective adventures. The scenes are crazy-child-fun.
“She placed her gold coin in a slot on the stand,
And a group of black ants danced around in a band.
There was a loud ‘Pop’ then a ‘Whistle’ and a ‘Woo’,
As the tree shook and shivered and out popped ‘Cuckoo!”
Granny has tea with the Queen, but the scene is anything but royal. A “fuzzy and fat” bee infiltrates the Queen’s dining room causing havoc. Young George’s adventure is quite different. He jumps on the tree and shouts,
“‘There!’ he shouted. ‘That one at the back,
With puffy white clouds and a fat ginger cat.’”
George flies up into the air and through a cloud. The ginger cat from his hat flies by in a plane, which George hops into. They fly haphazardly until a chick falls out of a nest. Finally, a young girl, Little Miss Martha, choses a hat and goes on an ocean voyage—in the ocean. She meets mermaids, a turtle that swims at “spectacular speeds,” and a dolphin who bumps his head, needing first aid.
In each of the adventures, the person accomplishes a dream and becomes the hero of their journey. Little Miss Martha patches the dolphin’s head; George catches the falling chick; and Granny helps the Queen battle the “fuzzy and fat” bee. While they have their adventures, out of sight of others (so it could just be in their minds, rather than an actual occurrence), Mile stirs a cauldron and sings a nonsense song that propels the new hat owner on their way. (This part is simply odd. Why not have the witch stir the cauldron and free-up Mike?)
Told in 4-line stanza’s called quatrains, using two rhyming couplets, the text can be fun to read. Unfortunately, there are a few things that might throw a reader off an even tone. Some of the rhymes are slanted (“knickers/slippers;” “Martha/Arthur;”), while others seem to be chosen more for the rhyme not the story (“stump/trump”). Most stanzas are 4-lines, while some are eight. A page can have 2-, 4-, or 8-lines in several groupings or one large group. This mish-mash makes me wonder if the text was but a second-thought when laying out the spreads.
Lack of punctuation (as in Mike’s chant above), is common. The spread with various hats—part of the introduction of the shop and part of Granny’s adventure—is confusing. Does it read across the page or the spread, or from top to bottom? I had to stop and find the rhyming words. Only then could I figure out the reading order. There are about 400 words too many in this rather long picture book.
The illustrations are gorgeous and will please children and parents. The details can be fascinating and keep your eyes busy and excited. By appearances alone, The Hat Shop is wonderfully presented with a cover that can catch a browsing eye. Interspersed within the story are questions to keep children involved, most requiring attention to artistic detail. (Can you count how many people are in the queue for the hat shop? How many hats can you count?)
Full of flights of fancy and imagination any four-year-old will love, young children will enjoy The Hat Shop. I can imagine a few turning this into a game where they chose a magical hat and have an adventure of their own. The other kids playing will chant Mike’s song, singing, “‘Flippety flappity flop flop flew, Here is a magical hat for you,’” while waiting their turn as customer. Though there are areas needing work, The Hat Shop is an imagination-filled story that will easily enchant young children, making them fans of hats—magical hats!
“George pulled the hat down over one eye
And immediately flew up into the sky.
He twisted and turned through clouds white and grey,
Then was hit in the face with cold watery spray.”
The art for the first sentence shows George with his head in the clouds. George’s adventure is in the blue sky and of all the illustrations, I like his set the best. The art is simple, crisp, clean, and clear. But his hat is gone (wouldn’t the adventure stop?) All three lose the hat, which is why these adventures must be in their heads.
Available at Amazon: The Hat Shop
THE HAT SHOP. Text Copyright © 2020 by Sally Cox. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Marie Wilkinson. Published by Pegasus Books.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[732-word count—review only]
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NEXT UP: MG – Believe by Julie Mathison – Starr Creek Press
AND THEN: PB – Sam the Speedy Sloth by Matthew Ralph & Khansadk – Matthew Ralph Publishing