Posted by: Jamie Stamm | May 26, 2008

What we’re reading: “Do You Have a Hat?”

“Do You Have a Hat?” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio

This book has been such a pleasant surprise – we received it as part of a General Mills promotion (you know, send in a cereal box top and $2.80 for shipping and handling and get five free children’s books), and though some of the other books included in the offer also were impressive (Cera really enjoys “The New Girl … and Me” by Jacqui Robbins, illustrated by Matt Phelan), this is the one we keep reading over and over again.

One part entertainment, one part history lesson (although your kids might not even realize they’re learning), this book relates the stories of historical figures and their favored hats, each simple poem ending with the question, “Do you have a hat?”

Two of my favorites:

“Francisco de Goya had a hat,

a hat with candles on the brim –

a clever hat that suited him –

that made a chandelier of light

for painting far into the night.”

And:

“Abraham Lincoln had a hat,

a stovepipe hat – black and tall –

a presidential carryall.

Abe Lincoln wore it round the town

with documents inside the crown.”

Other famous folk featured in “Do You Have a Hat?” include Igor Stravinsky, Carmen Miranda, Nat Love, Isabelle of Bavaria, Walt Whitman, Louis Comte and John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed). And if you don’t know who some of these characters are or what they did, there’s no need to turn to Wikipedia; author Eileen Spinelli has included brief, child-friendly biographical information for each man and woman in the opening and closing pages of her book.

In addition to Spinelli’s charming prose, Geraldo Valerio’s illustrations are wonderful – angular, fantastical and exploding with color (my favorite is of magician Comte, as an oversized rabbit leaps from his hat).

Our copy of “Do You Have a Hat?” – a small softback (which is exactly what I expected from a cereal box promotion – I’m not complaining) – already has lost some pages due to daily use, and I would encourage any parent of a preschooler to take the same action that I’ve planned. Invest in a hardback version of this fun – and educational – book.

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