Magritte’s Marvelous Hat

D. B. Johnson, Author, D. B. Johnson, Illustrator
D.B. Johnson. Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-55864-6
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Johnson follows Palazzo Inverso, his topsy-turvy homage to M.C. Escher, with a delightful salute to another mind- bender, Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Unexpected design elements, notably reversible images printed on transparent pages, surprise readers with clever illusions and artistic allusions: an arched gateway becomes an under-the-umbrella downpour with a page turn. “One bright day in the dark of night,” Magritte—a sophisticated gray dog with smooth black hair, à la Magritte’s self-portraits—purchases a gravity-defying bowler hat. Like a playful pet, the strange chapeau hovers above his head and loves “pretending to blow away.” As Magritte indulges its games, he finds painterly inspiration, but when he tells it to behave, it rockets out a window. The painter chases the hat through Parisian streets, passing enigmatic imagery from his canvases: blue skies, dense objects that hang weightless, solid surfaces revealed to be two-dimensional. Presumably to avoid tobacco, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” does not appear, but cursive lettering (“This is not a hat”) lines a hat-shaped fountain. Rather than magnify surrealism’s sinister edge, Johnson focuses on its energy and borrows that exuberance for his own see-through pages. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
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