“It is Andrea’s Law of Picture Books to include…notes only for plot points or jokes. Everything else, I think should be left to the illustrator with guidance from the editor. They are wildly talented people who take my words to places I never dreamed of and that is such fun to see!”
From the first page, you fall in love with the hats in this book. So many whimsical wonderful fantastical hats. And then you fall in love with Madame Chapeau. Hatmaker. Hard worker. Elegant, creative Parisian. Lonely gal.
I have to mention how Andrea Beaty does rhyme! I mean, on top of everything, this book rhymes! And in the most natural story-telling, fun-loving way.
“In a three-story house with a shop down below
lived the world’s finest hat maker, Madame Chapeau.”
Chapeau makes the most perfect hat for each of her customers. But she always dines alone. Except on her birthday, that one special day a year, she wears her best dress and bonnet and eats at a super fancy restaurant. (Chez Snooty-Patoot, of course!!)
Only this year, she loses her hat in a most creative way. And, in a way, she loses her HEART.
“As David [Roberts] worked through the sketches, our editor, Susan Van Metre, helped us find the heart of the story – which is Madame Chapeau’s loneliness and how the simple act of kindness can change a person’s world.”
If you read between the lines, as in look carefully at the illustrations, Madame Chapeau’s character is that much richer. Yes, the hats she designs—those shapes and details. But also, the framed photos at her desk and table. Photos of her and a fellow. She, wearing a heart-shaped red bonnet. A bonnet someone else made for her if you pay close attention.
And finally: the girl! She first shows up on the spread with all the shops and is featured again below, with her mother. She makes all the difference to Madame Chapeau in the end!
“David took the idea and created very subtle details in the illustrations to tell the back story about Madame Chapeau’s husband who is now gone. (For instance, the photos and the hatbox from Monsieur Chapeau.)”
Last fun tidbit: David Roberts himself was a milliner in Hong Kong and the heart-shaped bonnet Madame Chapeau loses—that’s his own millinery design!
I received a review copy of this book; opinions are my own.
Hats! Many hats featured in this book! (Check out that first image at the top of the post to see some of these illustrated.)
Alphabet books are sort of utilitarian in function: teaching the ABCs, but many are standouts of art, design, storytelling, and other loveliness to boot. I give you these three favorites in chronological order, but please add your picks to the comments!
I like the gorgeously stark black and white woodcuts all about life on a Vermont farm. Apple, Barn, Icicles, Kite, Neighbor, Yawn. Time may advance, but some things stay the same. Like the alphabet. Like daily surroundings and tasks.
This is one of the first picture books I bought, and it was pretty much purely for the artwork. At first. But there’s more.
This spread! Klezmer! The girl’s giant open mouth! The way you can see the paint on the page!
I like the way it covers more than just names of instruments, but styles of music, bits of lyrics, and even diverse greats like Armstrong, Elvis, Mozart, and the Beatles (with a nice nod to music teachers at the letter M too!).
There’s so much beauty and whimsy in this book, in all these books, that expresses even more than ABCs.