Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
by Andrea Beaty
illustrated by David Roberts
A quirky treat. Every one of Madame Chapeau's customers is different, so each receives a unique, bespoke hat. But while she gives so much of herself, Madame has a lonely life. And then, one night, she loses her precious birthday bonnet. A line of men queue up to offer her their hats but none will do...until a child brings her a special headpiece, knitted by her own small hands and brightly coloured with love.
Like every great story book, this one lends itself to multiple interpretations. It's a story about loss and (self-) isolation, but it also ends up as a story about friendship, belonging and finding your own uniqueness.
The illustrations are wonderful- a particular delight is that each hat mirrors and reveals the personality of its owner. The text lilts along with bouncing rhymes and it savours funny nonsense words- "Chez Snooty-Patoot" "Rue Tippytap".
This illustrator excels in effortless inclusion- the characters are multicultural; the real star is a small, Black child (with natural hair); some of the couple scenes suggest same-sex partners in amongst the mix and indeed one of the story's joyful messages is that love and companionship takes many forms.
'I LOVE this book...a lovely story about finding what is right for you' (Ruth, Events Programmer, Discover Story Centre, LL reviewer). 'How many ways do I love this? I would have bought this for my child- I had to read it to my (nearly 15-year-old) daughter anyway. Wonderful inclusion!' (Patrice, children's author, LL reviewer) Age 4-7, Hardback 29pp