Very Good Hats

It can't be said that Emma Straub, the author of six fine works of fiction for adults, hasn't been using her writing time productively. Still, her debut title for kids--the silly and saucy picture book Very Good Hats, with fetching illustrations by Blanca Gómez--prompts a question: Why did it take Straub so long to write a children's book?

Straub's narrative approach is direct address. "Do you know what a hat is?" Very Good Hats begins. "I bet you think you know what a hat is." Acorns, she informs the reader, can be hats. Also qualifying are tiny doll shoes, cats and hardcover books--"if you have excellent posture." Straub's sass builds as pages turn. "The roof is the house's hat, and a lid is a pot's hat. Everyone knows that." At one point, Straub takes a philosophical approach: "If a turtle can tuck its head into its shell, does that make its shell a hat?" Elsewhere Straub sticks with straight-up logic: "If you're on a scooter, you have two hats: your helmet and the wind." Everyone knows that.

For each example of poker-faced goofiness introduced by Straub, Gómez (Besos for Baby) has the perfect answer. A standout among her crisp digital and paper collage art presents two hands: the fingers, topped with dapper and daffy-looking lids ("Raspberries, chewed-up gum, tortellini..."), wear a range of facial expressions. (Everyone knows that fingers have faces.) Imagination-firing, cheeky and hilarious, Very Good Hats is a very good book. Everyone should know that. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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