cover image Portly's Hat

Portly's Hat

Lucy Cousins. Dutton Books, $6.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-525-44457-2

Splotchy two-color pictures accompany this idiosyncratic tale of a penguin and his red-striped hat. Portly wears that hat while watching the news, while bathingin fact, all the time, until Stuart, `` the stinky seagull, '' steals it. Because Portly can't fly, he can't go after his hat; his friend Little Bert, the size of a wren or sparrow, goes after it for him. Upon getting the hat back (Stuart, not only stinky but clumsy, flies into a tree while wearing it, and Bert snatches it), Bert becomes a hero to Portly, and gets a hat of his own. This simple tale, hardly more than a scrawl, is loaded with a sneaky sort of charm that will take readers by surprise. Cousins's first book includes penned-in comic asides, the kind of comments children mutter or include in their own drawings: ``Come back Stinky Stuart,'' a bare-headed Portly calls out; ``Stinky Stuart called me fish face and he's got my hat,'' the penguin sobs to his friend. The book and its stars are thoroughly engaging right from the start. Ages 3-6. (Mar.)