Review of The Red Hat

teague_red hatThe Red Hat
by David Teague; 
illus. by Antoinette Portis
Primary   Disney-Hyperion   40 pp.
12/15   978-1-4231-3411-4   $16.99

With a nod to Albert Lamorisse’s film The Red Balloon, and with much of its tenderness, this fable-like story tells of Billy Hightower, whose isolated life atop “the world’s tallest building” changes when another skyscraper is built alongside it and Billy catches a glimpse of “the girl in the red hat.” Billy longs to communicate with the girl, but his various attempts fail, repeatedly foiled by the wind. First the wind snatches away Billy’s words, then it derails his paper-airplane missive. Finally it pulls Billy himself (wrapped in a parachute-like red blanket) off his building and into the sky, and deposits the boy on a noisy, gritty, confusing city street. Undaunted, he finds his way to the girl’s tower and is united with her. The ever-present antagonist here is the wind, pictured as a glossy, lightly embossed, swirling pattern on each page, a turquoise line against the restrained palette of black, white, taupe, sky-blue, and crimson. Teague’s rhythmical and unadorned text is fleshed out by Portis’s graphically arresting compositions. The color red, for example, has its own character and plot: the temporary roadblock of a red light, the welcoming red carpet, the subtly recurring shape of a red heart. When this love story ends with the words “The Beginning,” we believe it.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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