September 25, 2012

Mr. Zinger's Hat

by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Tundra Books
32 pp.
Ages 6-9
August 2012

Yep, under the hat is a story.  First it's under Mr. Zinger's Hat, the hat that old Mr. Zinger wears when he walks around the courtyard making up stories that he publishes.  And Leo's mom always tells him not to disturb Mr. Zinger when he is thinking. But when Mr. Zinger's hat gets carried off by Leo's errant ball and then miraculously lands on Leo's head, they look inside the hat for some explanation. 

As Mr. Zinger looks within his hat, he prompts Leo to share details about the story trying to get out: the character, his problem, what he does to solve it, and finally the ending.  Leo is very eager to help fill in the blanks of the story within the hat, and he seems to have all the answers, as well as a fertile imagination!  Ah, the sights that can be imagined and the sounds that can be heard from that hat are astounding.  When Mr. Zinger declares it is time to return to his desk, he vows that he will not write down that story, as it belongs to Leo.  Subsequently when Leo finds a new playmate, he tells her of a story inside his baseball cap, allowing her to help provide the details this time.

The magic of discovering a story from within - within a hat, within a heart, within one's imagination - is extraordinarily fulfilling, as Mr. Zinger knows, sharing that knowledge with Leo, who in turn shares with Sophie.  There is no pulling or prodding to reveal the story; the story is naturally drawn out, as natural as a conversation in one's imagination.  Cary Fagan has Mr. Zinger effortlessly converse with Leo as if they were old friends - no judgements, no manipulations, no expectations.  And the story comes as it comes and it is real and relevant and inspiring.  Mr. Zinger becomes the iconic storyteller (looking and sounding all too similar to Canadian children's author and storyteller, Aubrey Davis!), surprised and impressed with his own story, and sharing that astonishment with his listeners.  How could Leo help but be mesmerized?

Award-winning illustrator Dušan Petričić, who has collaborated with Cary Fagan on several picture books including My New Shirt (Tundra, 2007) and Jacob Two-Two on the High Seas (Tundra, 2009), does profound credit to Cary Fagan's story, capturing Leo's awe with the light touch of one who knows this boy well.  I fully expect to see Leo playing ball outside the local school in the city.  Readers may notice that when Leo is formulating his story (from Mr. Zinger's hat), Dušan Petričić's illustrations change from his rich, highly-textured water-coloured images to the simple, two-dimensional drawings of a less sophisticated artist, say a child.  Obviously Dušan Petričić also knows whose story it is and is able to help young readers see it as well.

I may have found Mr. Zinger's Hat on a shelf, not under a brim, but I am absolutely delighted that Cary Fagan was able to see beneath some hat and then invite Dušan Petričić to use his high-powered vision to discern the textures, colours and shapes that must have lain hidden within as well.  That's some special headgear and insight, as special as Mr. Zinger's Hat.

1 comment:

  1. This looks fantastic! It was on my Most Anticipated picture books list and ordered it but it hasn't arrived yet. Must look into it.