Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Hat

The Hat
Tomi Ungerer ~ Four Winds Press, 1970

Tomi Ungerer is a wonderful, odd duck (who tweets rather than quacks), and I think it's safe to say that I'm in love with him. French-born Ungerer lived through the German occupation of Alsace, and in many ways, that childhood is reflected in his books. They have a childlike quality while still staying firmly cemented in many of life's unpleasantries. He was praised for his early children's books, but quit for two decades to create illustrations and books with themes of adult sexuality ~ hey, whatever floats your boat, man.

Hilarious erotic perversions aside, Crictor is still in my son's top 20 -- every snake he encounters gets named after the blasted boa -- and The Hat is equally a charmer.

There is a magic hat, see. And the head it chooses to land upon will have a flood of good fortune. When the hat settles on a penniless veteran, he does one good deed after another, becoming a national hero -- winning fame, fortune and a beautiful bride.

"Capitano Mallmorte!" he cried. "What is this all about!"

"We have trapped a band of cutthroats in their lair." replied the captain. "They refuse to surrender. Our cannons will soon blow their brains to reason."

"Don't shoot yet. Put me in charge and you shall capture them alive. Hat, hat!" ordered Badoglio. "To the chimney, quick!"

The hat took off and settled on top of the flue. Soon a white flag appeared. In clouds of smoke the brigands staggered out, one by one coughing and choking.

Ungerer sees people in a very unpretty way, but in a way that's real and charming and makes the players interesting rather than just cute. For instance, due to the main character's (Badoglio) thick black beard, you never see his mouth except as a small black circular shadow. Expressive with minimal expression. Too, my son loves the fact that this Badoglio guy has a small wheel for a foot and seems perfectly content to roll along in life. Out of print, paperback versions are readily available online, though the hardcover will cost you a bit more.

Featuring Ungerer's signature secret winks, can you guess who the hat is going to next in above picture scanned from the last page of the book? Spectacular.

Also by:
I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories
The Mellops Strike Oil
Zarelda's Ogre
Seeds and More Seeds
The Three Robbers
Moon Man
Orlando The Brave Vulture
Christmas Eve at the Mellops'
The Beast of Monsieur Racine
Book of Various Owls


  1. I have both The Hat and Crictor. I must admit I like Crictor the best. I just think it is such a cute story.

  2. We were gifted with the "Goodnight Gorilla" DVD a few years back, which is essentially a collection of children's books that have been slightly animated (ie, not full on animation. Most of the stories just have panning across the pages and celebrities reading the stories). "The Hat" is one of our favorites. The guy who reads it is hilarious, using fantastic varied voices and a lovely falsetto for the countess. But yes, kinda eyebrow raising references to cannons blowing brains to reason!

    Also on the DVD is a wonderfully animated version of Quentin Blake's "Patrick". It's worth seeking out, just for that.

  3. i love those weston woods (i think).... there is just so much....

  4. Animated version of "Patrick" you say ..... possibly my fourth favourite book of all time.

  5. of Quentin Blake's "Patrick". It's worth seeking out, just for that.


    that is wonderful news. Patrick is in my top 5 favourite Children's books of all time
    (Elephant and the Bad Baby at number One)
    I shall try and hunt that dvd down.

  6. Oh my. Just love the artwork in this one.