I have always loved hats so I couldn’t wait to get my hand on a copy of Satoshi Kitamura‘s latest picture-book, Millie’s Marvellous Hat (Andersen Press, 2009) – and indeed, it is a joy from beginning to end. It seems a simple enough story: but the resonance of its message, the power of imagination to transcend reality, means that children will never tire of hearing it read to them over and over again as they pour over Satoshi’s uncluttered but detail-filled illustrations.
Millie spots a beautiful hat in a shop window on her way home from school and goes in to buy it – there’s just one problem: it’s hideously expensive and in her purse Millie has… nothing. Hmmm. That could have been the end of the story but no, because the very proper, besuited shop assistant fetches just the hat for Millie from the back of the shop:
“This is a most marvellous hat, Madam, ” said the man.
“It can be any size, shape or colour you wish. All you have to do is imagine it.”
I know this is only a story, but I could have hugged him! And as Millie walks out of the shop wearing her new hat, her imagination takes flight.
Then she discovers that she’s not the only one with a special hat: as she looks around her, she notices that everyone else has one too. There are delightful parallels between what people are doing and the hats they are wearing – and a very special moment occurs when Millie smiles at an old lady whose hat is a “dark, murky pond”: birds and fish “leapt out of her hat and onto the old lady’s”, who we then see striding through the park reenergized with a lovely smile on her face. The final illustration of Millie sitting at the supper table with her parents is an absolute treat too, and will have both children and adults chuckling: but also imagining all the possibilities behind it.
As children turn the pages, their own imaginations will take flight and I can definitely see a new Marvellous Hat game emerging. It would work well on long journeys… So what does your hat look like? And what kind of hats are the people around you wearing?
We are delighted to be featuring Satoshi in our current Gallery, which includes this exuberant illustration from Millie’s Marvellous Hat; and do read Satoshi’s recent interview with Booktrust, in which he talks about Millie and says that he is working on a follow-up – hooray!