cover image The Upside Down Hat

The Upside Down Hat

Stephen Barr, illus. by Gracey Zhang. Chronicle, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4521-8202-5

A lanky, brown-skinned child wakes up in a mostly barren, palm tree–studded terrain with nothing but a teal-colored cowboy hat and the clothes on his back in this meandering fable by debut author Barr. As the child proceeds to search for what he’s lost—“his sewing needle/ and his pirate flag/ and his bright orange stilts,” as well as best friends Henry and Priscilla—the hat provides shelter from the rain and sun, a bucket to drink out of and store cherries in, a means to hide his identity and, when “he had only his hat/ and a dreadful, helpless feeling,” a receptacle for begging. Spare narration and subtle themes of hope and dedication guide the child forward, though his circumstances and the stark lack of community support may puzzle readers: “All day and all night the boy asked for help/ until the streets were empty// and his path was clear.” Zhang’s (Nigel and the Moon) characteristic style, rendered in ink, gouache, and watercolor, portray a brown-skinned cast against a vividly colored landscape of deserts, broken Grecian columns, cherry trees, and bustling open-air markets in this picture book about contentment amid loss. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. Illustrator’s agent: Hannah Mann, Writers House. (Mar.)