Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book #291: Mr. Zinger’s Hat by Cary Fagan, Illustrated by Dušan Petričić

Image from
Every day after school Leo would take his ball into the courtyard to play and while he played old Mr. Zinger would walk around the courtyard. They never talked until one day when the ball escaped from Leo and knocked off Mr. Zinger’s hat. Leo caught the hat and brought it back to Mr. Zinger, “I wonder why my hat took off like that. Maybe there is something inside it.” And there was. A story. Mr. Zinger started the story, but soon Leo was making additions, changes, and even naming characters! After Mr. Zinger went home to write more stories, Leo made a new friend, Sophie, and together they found a new story in Leo’s baseball cap.

The text pushes the reader right into this story about storytelling. The dialogue is compelling, yet natural, making this a fun book to read aloud. The three major characters in the book, Leo, Mr. Zinger, and Sophie are well-crafted. Leo is an imaginative protagonist and he manages to be respectful of Mr. Zinger, as well as curious and outspoken. The layout of the book brings the illustrations and text together harmoniously. Petričić uses two styles of illustrations both created with watercolors. The first style is used for the real world that Leo lives in. The colors are softly blended and the line work is loose. Then Leo and Mr. Zinger begin their story, which is illustrated in a brighter, more cartoon-like style. The story world is flat with solid colors, while the real world employs perspective, shading, and texture.

Wear a hat when you read this story and pretend to find the story inside the hat, just as Leo and Mr. Zinger do. After you read the story, look into the hat and start a story with a simple prompt like, “Once upon time there was a boy/girl/rabbit/bear/rhino/shoe/whatever” and then pass the hat around for each child to find a bit more of the story inside.

Read this book as the introduction to a creative writing lesson for elementary school aged kids. Some kids are not as comfortable writing a fictional story, so begin by having them write stories in teams of two.

If you have kids who are reading middle grade books, try pairing this picture book with the chapter book, The Phantom Tollbooth written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. How are Milo and Leo alike? What kind of story would Milo find in a hat? Do you think Leo would go through the tollbooth?


1 comment:

  1. I think I might have to stop reading your reviews as I love the sound of this book too! ;-)