Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happiness On Your Head!

Growing up the wearing of hats was much more common than it is today.  Women rarely went out without wearing a hat; especially when attending church on Sunday.  It was the custom for women to continue wearing their hats when inside with men removing them as a sign of respect.  Children wore hats for practical purposes and for special holidays.  Emily Post's site recognizes the changes but it is interesting to note which customs still remain for both men and women.

Given the household in which I was raised I developed a love of wearing hats.  I wear them when others don't because I find them functional and fashionable.  Hats are perfect for changing characters during storytelling (I wish I still had my elephant and giraffe hats I used for the reading of Jumanji) or to use during reader's theater with a group.  In Hooray For Hat! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) debut author illustrator Brian Won brings his own particular brand of joy to a group of animals who need it most.

When Elephant woke up, he was very grumpy.

He is so cranky when the doorbell rings, he shouts to the closed door and the unknown visitor to


To his surprise there is a gift on the other side of the door.  A gift for the grouch?! Removing the lid he discovers a hat inside.

Now I want you to know, this is no ordinary hat.  This is a super duper, five-decker, decorative hat.  With this extraordinary item on his head his crabbiness scuttles away.  This elephant is now grinning from ear to ear.  He can hardly wait to show Zebra his new attire.

It seems that Zebra is a tad bit cross himself.  Elephant has a foolproof idea.  Now two animals are wearing hats.  A visit to turtle and owl result in similar outcomes.

When the foursome visit Lion nothing can take away his down-in-the-dumps state.  How can he be happy when he knows their friend Giraffe is pretty blue too?  In a jiffy this group collects and concocts a creation certain to cure.

Brian Won has crafted an enchanting story which begs to be read aloud.  Even when you read it to yourself silently, the repetitious sentences will be singing in your mind.  Each grumpy phrase will get louder, deeper and sadder with the pleasing results getting stronger and happier as each animal joins the chorus.

You can almost hear the cheerful shouts and whistles along with the marching of feet when opening up the matching dust jacket and book case.  The bright color palette hollers out "come on everyone, join in the fun!"  A perky Owl on the back is perched above these words:


Striped opening endpapers send a statement in blue; closing endpapers are a perfect pink sharing space with alternating shades.

A heavier matte finished paper in white supplies a pleasing backdrop for the meticulously placed elements in each of Brian Won's illustrations.  His grumpy animals look the part with their frowning faces and scribbled thunder clouds over their heads.  In contrast the eyes, noses, mouths and body postures of each animal donning a hat are gleeful, nearly leaping off the page.

His attention to detail, shading and shadows, blush on Elephant's cheek, artistic grasses, the cuckoo bird, the different colors for each letter in HOORAY and the do not disturb sign transform his visuals to excellence.  One of my favorite illustrations is when Zebra, Elephant and Turtle, standing on the end of Elephant's extended trunk, want to show their hats to owl hiding in his dark hole.  Extending across two pages Won modifies his perspective by zooming in on the action.  It deliberately depicts the transformation, moments of sharing and an open invitation.

Anytime, anywhere Hooray For Hat! with words and pictures by Brian Won is an ideal pick for passing on moments of pure happiness.  Wouldn't it be fun to hand out hats for all your listeners to wear?  Wouldn't it be fun to make newspaper sailor hats embellishing them with assorted goodies?  Kids and kids at heart love hats and wearing them.  Spread the joy repeatedly as soon as possible.

If you want to know more about Brian Won and his work follow the link to his website embedded in his name.  All around the web people are celebrating this delightful picture book.  Visit teacher librarian John Schumacher's blog Watch. Connect. Read. for an interview, author illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi's website Inkygirl for a feature article, teacher Niki Barnes' blog, Daydream Reader, for her A Book That Makes Me Smile post and teacher Colby Sharp's blog, Sharpread, for his moving Ten Minute Review of this book.

UPDATE July 9, 2014 Even in the midst of a family move, Brian Won graciously responded to an email request for information about the process he uses in creating his illustrations.  Follow this link to an article at KidLit Artists.   

Follow this link to a publisher provided Activity Kit! This links to a Tumblr post of the publisher where Brian Won speaks about his artwork.  Enjoy the book trailer here and at many of the other links.


If you want to melt from sheer cuteness check out this link to Etsy for Elephant hats. I wonder if they make them for adults.

Stop by your favorite indie store to pick up a copy.  I did at McLean & Eakin in Petoskey, Michigan. Or visit your public library.

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