Review of Courage Hats

Courage Hats Courage Hats
by Kate Hoefler; illus. by Jessixa Bagley
Preschool, Primary    Chronicle    48 pp.    g
3/22    978-1-7972-0276-1     $17.99

Mae (a human girl) and Bear (a bear) are both embarking on a train journey to an undisclosed destination, and neither feels comfortable. Mae worries about bears who might eat small people, and Bear worries about people who eat big things, like bears. Separately, they each decide to make a paper-bag hat, disguising themselves as the things they fear for protection. The narrative tells their story from a distant, knowing vantage point, creating a philosophical atmosphere. “Courage is something that comes from your heart—but if you can’t find it there, you can wear it on your head at first.” The soft graphite and watercolor illustrations effectively use perspective and point of view to develop tension and meaning for these two as they board the train from opposite sides and, in their disguises, choose to sit together, share a snack, and form an alliance. As the train winds through a variety of settings, from mountainous to woodland to metropolitan, the art depicts Mae and Bear bonding over the same delights. An aerial view shows the train’s path and then a train car full of human and anthropomorphized animal passengers, expanding the reader’s comprehension in parallel with Mae and Bear’s growing friendship. Eventually the disguises come off, and, unfazed by each other’s true identities, they exchange the hats as gifts. The train moves on, but in a satisfying conclusion, it’s revealed that these two are heading to the same destination: “Welcome Campers!” While visually capturing the thrill of travel, this warm story pays tribute to bravery, new experiences, and special connections.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Roach

Julie Roach

Julie Roach, chair of the 2020 Caldecott Committee, manages youth services at the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusetts. She also teaches children’s literature at Simmons University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and at Lesley University.

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