There are dozens of children's books where a hat (or hats) plays a
central role in the story. Here's a partial list [see below] -- all of
which are in The Village Hat Shop's "books on hats" collection.
Why are there so many children's books about hats? Those of you who are regular readers of the HAT BLOG
or the "Hat Information and Resources" section of VillageHatShop.com
may have an inkling where I am about to go. Yes, this is in fact
another example of a theme that runs throughout the blog and the site,
i.e. hats matter. Hats are cultural icons. Hats sit prominently and
significantly on the top of one's head. Hats are a bridge to history.
Hats transform the wearer. Hats, as a symbol, can be simple and complex
at the same time. Hats are fun. As an object to revolve a story
around, a hat is a perfect fit. Let's take a smattering of examples:
Hats as a bridge to learning about history and as a file cabinet for important letters and papers:
ABE LINCOLN'S HAT.
Hats as head covering for chemotherapy patients and as an object helping to sustain hope:
Hat ("Bad Hat" specifically) as metaphor for a person:
MADELINE AND THE BAD HAT.
Hat as superhero:
THE HAT (Ungerer).
Hat as a valuable item for barter:
THE SCARECROWS HAT.
Hat as an eccentric and highly individual fashion statement:
MISS HUNNICUTT'S HAT.
Hat as a good luck charm:
MY LUCKY HAT.
Hat as an article spurring recall and story telling:
MISS FANNIE'S HAT and
AUNT FLOSSIE'S HATS (AND CRAB CAKES LATER).
Hat as an old friend and companion and as a metaphor for change:
UNCLE NACHO'S HAT/EL SOMBRERO DEL TIO NACHO.
Granted, I am guilty of an a priori bias to infuse headwear with a high
degree of symbolic significance, cache, cultural value, and the like
(I've got to justify my existence somehow for god's sake), and yet who
can argue with its validity? Clearly, writers and artists from Seuss to
Keats to Bemelmans to Scarry et al. who don't share my self-interested
prejudice, still find this relevance in hats.
But, I believe, the proliferation of the hat in children's literature
is more than all this. Parenting in modern America can feel like an out
of control merry-go-round. The drumbeat of media messages to buy the
right toys, infuse your home with the right music [Mozart] so as to
promote brain development, commit to the right "play group", enroll the
child in the right pre-school (that promises to prepare your kid for
the Ivy League), treading through the ubiquitous disingenuity
(politicians and advertisers spinning, lying, and double-speaking) and
deciding when and what to expose your innocent to the modern world,
rampant commercialism (don't buy anything except a hat), war - is it
any wonder why a parent is attracted to a simple story that revolves
around a simple honest object that connotes a simpler time. Hat as
nostalgic icon - yes, that too. But alas, more than nostalgia - for
crying out loud, the parent understandably wants to take her kid off
that crazy modern merry-go-round. The parent has an epiphany -- don't
heap all this adult nonsense and anxiety upon my kid - I'll buy a
little book and read about a hat. This is a good thing to do in our
hyper-complex 21st Century -- it's in fact good for the soul.