Review: Hooray for Hat!


GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-6
Author and illustrator: Brian Won
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (published June 2014)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0544159039
ISBN-13: 978-0544159037

If we could all teach our children how powerful kindness can be, do you think we could change the world?

Or maybe what is required to change the world is…funny hats.

Hooray for Hat! opens with an elephant who wakes up in a seriously bad mood. When he hears the doorbell ring, he stomps down the stairs.


Only to discover someone has left him a present.

A tall stack of silly hats.

It is decidedly difficult to stay grumpy when you’re wearing a cowboy hat, a crown, a hat with a cup holder, a hat with a cuckoo coming out of it, and a hat with a striped awning. Cheered, Elephant goes to show Zebra, but Zebra doesn’t want to know about his hats because he too is in a bad mood. “GO AWAY! I’M GRUMPY!” Elephant gives Zebra a party hat, which brightens his day, and they go off to show Turtle. The pattern repeats itself, as grumpy animals all over the (minimally but boldly illustrated) forest lose their cantankerousness in the face of preposterously silly hats. “HOORAY FOR HAT!” each friend shouts as frowns are turned upside down, until they meet Lion, who is too worried about his friend Giraffe’s state of mind to be cheered by his hat. So the friends parade over to Giraffe’s and offer him the box of hats. “HOORAY FOR FRIENDS!”

This debut picture book by author and illustrator Brian Won is utterly simple and utterly lovely. Kids and adults will love shouting “HOORAY FOR HAT!” (I found myself shouting it today while we were bundling up to head outside into the snow, and suddenly Little E was less resistant to pulling her fleece hat on) — try it if you don’t believe me. It’s fun to shout. But be warned that you may be met with the occasional shout of “GO AWAY! I’M GRUMPY!”

Simple though it may be, the book communicates its important message unequivocally: small acts of kindness spread happiness wherever you go, even in the face of great grumpiness.

In the words of Brian Won, HOORAY FOR HAT! In the words of Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esquire, be excellent to each other.



Review: I Feel Happy

I Feel Happy

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book
Age: 0-2
Series: Little Learners Slide and See
Publisher: Parragon Books (March 2012)
Pages: 8 (plus slide-out tabs)
ISBN-10: 1445457369
ISBN-13: 978-1445457369

I have an automatic dislike for any book that doesn’t list an author. That’s usually a very bad sign. It usually means that the publisher’s emphasis was on production values rather than the words or the images, and it often makes for a book that is more glitter than anything else. Books that don’t credit authors or illustrators almost always rely on a gimmick for sales. They may be shiny, but they’re not good. This book may be the exception to my rule: it has very simple text and images, but in this case they work well with each other and with the gimmick: in this case, pull-out “slide and see” tabs. The book explains a wide variety of emotions in easy-to-understand terms with straightforward examples: “I feel happy…when I’m with my family. I feel sad…when I say goodbye to Grandma.” The young reader can pull out a tab that continues: “I feel loved…by Mommy and Daddy.” For a toddler who is just starting to put names to some of the (frequently overwhelming) emotions he or she is feeling, this book is a great read. Toddlers can learn what it means to feel shy, to feel grumpy, to feel bored, and more, while feeling safe and snug in a loved one’s lap.