________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 5 . . . . October 5, 2012


Mr. Zinger’s Hat.

Cary Fagan. Illustrated by Dušan Petrišci'c.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-1-770490253-0.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Saeyong Kim.

**** /4



“Let me see,” Mr. Zinger said, peering into the hat with his pale eyes. “Once upon a time, there was a man.”

“Could it maybe be a boy?” asked Leo.

“Yes, you’re right – a boy. Now this boy was very poor.”

“He might be rich,” Leo ventured.

Mr. Zinger scratched his head. “Why not? He was rich. Rich as a king, an emperor, a czar. He was also very unhappy. Can you see why?”

Leo looked into the hat. He thought a moment.

Mr. Zinger’s Hat is a wonderful story about the shared process of creating… a story! Leo is bored with playing catch with the brick wall in his courtyard – until one day his ball knocks the hat off the head of Mr. Zinger, who “made up stories…published in magazines and in books, too.” Mr. Zinger invites Leo to sit with him and look into his hat to see what story is inside trying to get out. What follows is the back-and-forth discussion of Mr. Zinger, who sets the framework for the story (beginning in traditional fairytale style, with “Once upon a time…”) and provides prompts, and Leo, who fills in the details and colours the narrative with his own emotions and imagination, resulting in a lively story which satisfies both. It is a charming illustration of creative interaction, in which both Leo and Mr. Zinger offer one another suggestions, courteously, without once saying the petrifying words: I think that’s a stupid idea.

      When the story is finished, the two congratulate each other on their story, and Mr. Zinger leaves; Leo then encounters a girl, Sophie, with whom he plays catch, tag and hide-and-seek until they are both tired. Sophie shares her chocolate with Leo, and Leo shares with her the beginning of another storytelling, by taking off his baseball cap and telling her that it has a story inside.

      The primary emotion in this book is, I think, friendliness; it is a warm and comfortable read. The writing is clear and well-organized. Mr. Zinger’s having a story in his hat and then Leo’s having one in his baseball cap is a pattern easily recognized and satisfying for the reader. The ball is almost a character in its own right: it brings Leo and Mr. Zinger together, brings Sophie and Leo together, and it is the solution to the main problem in Leo and Mr. Zinger’s story. The story, itself, is also about making friends, though it is not stated directly that Leo is lonely or that Sophie has become his friend.

      The illustrations by Dušan Petrišci'c are beautiful and very expressive. They are watercolour in the beginning, spare in detail and full of empty spaces until Leo meets Mr. Zinger and the two begin to make a story together. Then, the style of the illustrations changes over the two-page spread into a cartoon-like style which is fuller and flatter, with no empty spaces; the entire page is gradually filled in with a light yellowish background colour so there is no blank left on the page. After the story ends, the illustrations return to watercolour until Leo begins to tell a story with Sophie at which point Sophie’s story about an ogre trying to get out of Leo’s baseball cap is drawn in dark purple ink. The layout of the text and illustrations is excellent, with the two combining effortlessly on each spread.

Highly Recommended.

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

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

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