________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012


The Village of Many Hats.

Caroline Woodward.
Fernie, BC: Oolichan Books, 2012.
116 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-0-88982-284-9.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11.

Review by Saeyong Kim.

***½ /4



Thick green ribbon hung from the bottom of each earflap, to tie them up. A shiny pink button sat at the very top of the hat. I could see my mom cross-country skiing in it, in her pink winter coat and green snow pants. Perfect! I tried to find the price tag without making it too obvious.

I've got to be ready for anything. Life isn't like a mountain, it's like the glacier, growing, shrinking, new snow, old ice...it's complicated. I can't count on things like the Hall being here forever just because it's been here since 1906.

I bring the hope part to the table. Every stitch I'll make will be a hope-filled stitch, holding it all together.

Hope is holding me together too.

Gina takes a part-time job at the newly-opened gift shop of Madame D'Oiseaux whose specialty is making beautiful hats from fabrics and buttons selected and matched according to the characters of their previous owners. Gina learns to design and sew hats as well, and she makes a special hat for her sister, Sara, who is in a hospital in Vancouver awaiting heart surgery. Meanwhile, Silverado, where Gina lives, is a dwindling former mining community. With the silver mines shut down and families leaving for lack of work, the people of Silverado must come together and decide how to revitalize the village and, further, to determine what kind of neighbourhood they wish to live in when the community hall is damaged by fire and the village lacks the funds necessary for the repairs.

      The Village of Many Hats skilfully shows how the community we live in is intertwined with our lives: Gina's family is supported in many ways by the neighbours who bring food and company over, look after the cat, set up a collection to support travel to Vancouver, and donate plane tickets. Gina makes use of the school library and computers to record herself reading books for Sara, to send emails and chat live using a webcam. On the other hand, as Silverado dwindles, Gina's after-school activities have been cancelled due to lack of both participants and adult volunteers, her best friend has had to move away because her family needs work elsewhere, and the richest resident (who also anonymously donated the plane tickets to Vancouver) is attempting to demolish the community hall and set up a plastic fireplace log factory on the grounds.

      The great variety of subjects touched on in this slim book of just over a hundred pages makes it engaging for a broad readership as well. Community involvement, the importance of the human element (or the personal touch) in everything we make and do, the impact a serious illness can have on all members of the patient's family, an example of the democratic decision-making process on a small scale, and the wise use of available technology are all described, while the story, itself, that Gina makes a special hat for her sister to give her courage and hope before an important surgery, is poignant. The emotions of Gina, who is under stress to be both a brave sister for Sara and a responsible child for her parents in a time of crisis, are dealt with subtly, interspersed realistically with her new interest in and enthusiasm for design and sewing, her love for her village, and her growing friendship with Madame D'Oiseaux. A satisfying read, and good material for discussion.

Highly Recommended.

Saeyong Kim is studying for a Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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