Children’s Book Review: Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai

Mr. Brown's Fantastic Hat book cover

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat book cover

Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat by Ayano Imai

Published by minedition, 2013

Plot: Mr. Brown is a bear who lives by himself and likes it that way. He has a smart, white hat that he wears when he goes for walks. Much to Mr. Brown’s displeasure, a wood pecker decides to make a home in the hat and then invites more wood pecker friends. But the more birds that come to live in the hat, the taller it grows, soon Mr. Brown’s hat becomes the envy of the town. Winter comes too soon and all the birds fly south, leaving a lonely Mr. Brown and his hat. Too late Mr. Brown realizes that being intimidating and lonely isn’t the best after all. He hibernates with a heavy heart; although, he doesn’t realize it, spring is coming….

About the Author: Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat was written and illustrated by Ayano Imai; a Japanese lady who was born in England, lived all over the world including the United States, and now resides in Japan. After studying Japanese painting, specifically mineral pigment painting, she began to paint illustrations eventually leading to her writing and illustrating Children’s picture books.

Text: the sentences are simple and easy to read out loud with about one to two short paragraphs on each two page spread. The sentences don’t rhyme; they are more simple and crisp, yet don’t sound stilted or awkward when read aloud. There are also not a lot of extra sentences (like the books that a person only has to read one or two sentences and skip the other five or six on the page because they are either superfluous or repetitive. Extra sentences usually make reading out loud laborious). Another interesting aspect of this book is the frequent questions within the text (e.g. “Why would they leave?” “Would he ever see his friends again?”). This encourages the child to start analyzing the story: thinking about why an event in the story happened and what might happen next. Well placed questions encourage active reading (or listening as the case may be) which engages the brain. The page layout is also designed for easy read aloud because the text is on the left hand page while the illustration is on the right hand page. The child can look at the picture, and the mom can read the book without the child’s head in her line of vision (which is a major perk).

Illustrations: The full page, color illustration are simple yet whimsical. Each picture combines both urban and natural elements: for example the bear lives in a normal house, but it has grass on the floor and tree branches sticking out here and there. The little bird houses in the hat are not just round holes; they are square with little colored doors. The pastel colors do not just make the illustrations beautiful but also make easy to look at.

My favorite illustration from Mr. Brown's Fantastic Hat

My favorite illustration from Mr. Brown’s Fantastic Hat

I’m no usually a fan of over stylized illustrations in children’s picture books, but I love the illustrations in this book. I like there simple, natural feel. They are beautiful, and I feel like I could take most of these picture out of the book and frame them to decorate my kid’s room.

Overall impression: great story, great illustrations, and easy to read aloud. I would get it from the library again. This book is more for ages 3+. Honora (3.5) liked the book, but Rosalyn (23 m) didn’t really pay attention while I read (too many words not enough onomonopea).