You Must Bring a Hat

Simon and Schuster. First Published 2016

Simon Philip and Kate Hindley

ISBN: 978-1-4711-1732-9 (PB)

As the owner of hundreds of picture books, it’s rare for a newly-released illustrated text to grab my attention enough to warrant blogging about it.

But I doff my titfer to “You Must Bring a Hat” and wholeheartedly recommend this as THE best picture book release of 2016 to date.

It was an immediate hit with my son (myself and my husband) as a huge smile-inducing, gloriously-surreal tale of a boy’s attempts to attend a birthday party.

There is one stipulation on the invitation – “You MUST bring a hat.”

And so begins an ever-spiralling list of demands when the boy, who the invite says can bring as many guests as he likes, arrives at the party with a hat-wearing monkey in tow, only to be refused entry by the doorman.

“Sorry Sir, but we’re under strict instructions NOT to let in any hat-wearing monkeys…UNLESS they are also wearing a monocle.”

The absurdity continues when the boy sources a monocle from a Penny Farthing-riding badger who lends it to the monkey on the condition that he, too, can attend the party.

But is the boy permitted entry?

Of course not!

The demands grow to include piano playing, elephants, tutus and penguins carrying cheese.

The stipulation that the suitcase-holding, cheese-carrying penguin must have SLICED cheese, is a demand too many for the boy who finally breaks.

“Look, these are the silliest rules I’ve ever heard. Nigel clearly stated on his invitation that I could bring anyone I wanted so long as a I brought a hat, and I brought a monkey in a hat so technically I brought a hat and…”

(Page turn)

“Nigel?” said the doorman. “Who’s Nigel?

This is Felicity’s party.”

It is at his point the reader suddenly recognises all the clues illustrator Hindley (Oliver and Patch, Worst in Show) has so deftly left along the way, which point to the party next door.

The reader is so caught up hoping the boy will fulfil the off-the-wall demands that Hindley’s balloons next door, bunting, birthday cake-bearing mole and hat-wearing, present-bearing guests slip by unnoticed.

It’s a stroke of genius!

Here is one picture book where the strength of the story and the fantastically-detailed, humorous illustrations by talented Hindley mesh to create a marriage made in heaven.

Picture books don’t get much better than this.

Verdict: Hats off to this book. It’s a gift.