cover image ZARA'S HATS


Paul Meisel, . . Dutton, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45465-6

In this tale of a turn-of-the-century New York milliner, Meisel (Lunch Money) creates both a sentimental ode to his roots and a spunky heroine. Zara helps her father, Selig, make fine feathered hats that are "good enough for the president's wife." When the feathers run short and the family business falters, Selig leaves on a round-the-world journey to find more marabou. While he's gone, Zara fills the empty shop window with hats of her own design, decorated with fire hydrants, cakes, fishbowls and stuffed cats. Her fanciful creations are a hit (" 'I thought these were from Paris,' said Mrs. Fezzleworth. 'You made these extraordinary hats?' ") and Selig returns to a triumph ("People came from near and far to see the little hatmaker and to buy her hats"). Young readers will be drawn to the resourceful Zara as she takes the initiative, works hard, then succeeds. Equally appealing are the sunny illustrations, which detail a rose-colored world of old-fashioned city streets, fruit carts and, of course, whimsical hats. Clearly a labor of love for Meisel (Zara was his grandmother), the book's cheery optimism serves as a happy reminder of how families can love and support one another. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)