A pared-down, stylish tale packed with adrenalin and mischief in equal measure about a child’s ability to see possibilities and transform the world around them, That’s My Hat! by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud follows what happens when a hat created by a child is blown away on a gust of wind. Turning the pages takes us on a journey across the city to retrieve the hat, visiting various shops, a zoo and a library along the way. But when the child reaches the top of a skyscraper it looks like disaster will strike – can they use their imagination to save the day?
Although we may have seen the device before in Harold and the Purple Crayon, Anthony Brown’s Bear Hunt and Aaron Becker’s Journey, the idea of a child using a pencil to transform their world, changing something simple into an object of their imagination (in this case starting with a semi-circle being turned into a hat) never grows old. Perhaps this is because the ability to see alternative realities is a very real experience of childhood; we have all turned sticks into stallions ready for galloping, cardboard boxes into boats or stones into pets.
What That’s My Hat! brings afresh to this storytelling mechanism are very clever illustrations. Made of only 10 basic shapes and 5 flat colours, with simple black line embellishments, Boisrobert and Rigaud have created 3-D scenes to explore, with the use of intricate pop-up mechanisms and lots of hidden detail behind the folds and bends of the paper. It’s amazing to see the complexity that can be constructed from very basic building blocks. The magic is captivating and perhaps also empowering for young readers – these illustrations have a child-like achievability about them.
The ending draws the story full circle (literally, if you take note of how it began and what it concludes with), deeply satisfying readers, listeners and observers of all the fine and clever details in this playful book.
That’s My Hat! sent us to one of our favourite crafting materials – a bunch of paint chips (free! lovely thick card! great colours!), and from them we cut out lots of each of the 10 different shapes which appear in That’s My Hat!. For the circles I used a couple of outsized hole punchers and the kids loved the physicality of using them; I love it when the girls enjoy the preparation as much as the intended activity!
It was then time to let loose our imaginations, creating scenes with just the 10 types of shape and a black pen to add detail.
The girls loved looking closely at how the shapes were used in the book, copying some of the ideas for themselves, but also coming up with their own transformations for some of the shapes.
I love the grumpy looking mum and the dancing spider in this spread!
Whilst making stories with our shapes listened to:
Other activities which might work well alongside reading That’s My Hat! include:
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Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.