Very Good Hats

Image of Very Good Hats
Release Date: 
January 10, 2023
Rocky Pond Books
Reviewed by: 

“Hats off to Straub and Gómez for creating a book that every children’s book writer/illustrator will wish they had thought of. Very Good Hats will remain a favorite . . .”

Hot off the press and fresh on the bookstore display, Very Good Hats is already a bestseller for a very good reason: It’s a very good book. Very Good Hats is creative, inspiring, silly, quirky, imaginative, and adorable—just like kids. It conveys just how lighthearted, innocent, and playful kids are.

First impressions are fantastic. The cover grabs the eye and makes this book something the reader will want to hold on to. A lineup of 20 kids in 20 different hats looks fairly simple and straight forward at first, but pausing to consider each individual kid within their particular hat reveals thoughtful designs, engaging patterns, and pleasant color schemes. Graphic details are intelligent and satisfying. It sets a high standard that is maintained throughout the pages.

Once inside, the effective writing begins with a curious question: “Do you know what a hat is?” This is a perfect question because the youngsters will all answer something like—“duh, everyone knows that!” They’ll be so proud that they actually know the answer. One can hear the giggling already at such a silly question. But the question is rich, inviting, probing and is followed up with, “I bet you think you know what a hat is.” With that, the reader is hooked. Brilliant.

Turning the page, we enter into the world of hats which starts, where else in today’s culture, but at the store. This charming page-spread again looks so simple at first but has a wealth of elements that make it explosive. Linger on this page to inspect the wonderful storefront haberdashery. A haberdashery! What kid doesn’t love saying that word even if they don’t know what one is. Is a haberdashery a thing of the past? Is it irrelevant to the modern kid? Maybe. So what. Who cares. It’s super-fun. And it’s located right next to the bookstore, which cleverly displays a hat book and a Little Red Riding Hood book. The writing taunts us again saying, “Some people think hats are fancy things you can buy at a haberdashery, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Off we go, to the rest of the iceberg. The story jumps far away from stores and manmade items right into the realm of imagination. We begin to see what this book is all about. It’s like the thousands of uses kids will find for the box that the real gift came in. After they quickly tire with the gift, the box becomes the fundamental basis for play and exploration. In this case, the very concept of what a hat is is up for interpretation. Acorns, we learn, are hats for fingers. As are raspberries, gum, tortellini, etc. Who knew that fingers needed hats? Kids knew. It will make perfect sense to them. Stuffed teddy bears need hats, too.

The narrative oscillates between common things and unusual things, between obvious things and silly things, ranging from bubbles to books, crowns to clouds, and everything in between. It pushes logical boundaries by identifying lids as hats for pots. It stretches the definition of hat when asking if a turtle shell becomes its hat when the turtle tucks its head inside. These imaginative twists and turns follow exactly the way kid-play happens. It’s full of free-flowing wonder-thoughts, and learning about the world all the while. 

Wrapping up the narrative is a beautifully matched illustration design that combines paper collage with digital tools and techniques. The aesthetic this creates is effective and enriches the story the way good picture book illustration should. It’s irresistible, so here it is: Hats off to Straub and Gómez for creating a book that every children’s book writer/illustrator will wish they had thought of. Very Good Hats will remain a favorite for a very long time.