Monday, February 17, 2014

danyelle recommends Brimsby's Hats by Andrew Prahin

While searching for a book to read for a friendship-themed story time, I was delighted to find Andrew Prahin’s debut picture book, Brimsby’s Hats.  This story is not only an endearing tale of friendship, but with its winter setting, it is a perfect fit for a cold February day.

Brimsby spends quiet days making hats, drinking tea, and enjoying conversation with his best friend, but when that friend leaves to become a sea captain, the hat maker’s days become too quiet.  He sets out “on a long walk, looking for new friends” and finds birds that are too busy to talk to him.  Undaunted, Brimsby uses kindness and cleverness to make new friends.

What might at first glance threaten to be a predictable plot is anything but, thanks to a generous infusion of whimsy.  Birds that shovel snow out of their nests, a conversation about lemon cookies and worms, and Brimsby’s ingenious gifts for his new bird friends are a few of the gentle surprises.

While the engaging text tells the story with matter-of-fact ease, it is most remarkable for its restraint.  By not over-explaining, Prahin gives the illustrations an equal role in telling the story. Picture-filled speech bubbles show conversation as an exchange of ideas, not just words.  And seeing the birds sleeping snugly in warm nests helps readers appreciate the hat maker’s gifts.

Prahin’s deft use of color adds depth and emotion.  When Brimsby’s friend leaves, the jaunty red disappears, leaving a world of muted color.  The search for friends seems all the more lonely as the hat maker walks across a vast expanse of snowy white and gray, and color once again brightens his world when he meets the birds.

This is one of those books where the text and the pictures work in flawless harmony. Together they meet in a satisfying conclusion that embraces friendships, both old and new.

Brimsby's Hats
by Andrew Prahin
published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

*I'm not actually sure of the publication date for this book.  Simon & Schuster lists it as December 2013, but the copyright printed in the book is 2014.