You Must Bring a Hat – book review

By Simon Philip and Kate Hindley

Published by Simon and Schuster  ISBN 978-1-4711-1732-9

Reviewed by Spencer Hill


At 26cm square this book immediately makes a statement, and the beautiful artwork on the cover tells you that it is story time, and it is going to be an experience.  Publishers Simon and Schuster have placed this book in their ‘ages 2 and up’ category, so the story is quite straight forward. A boy is invited to a party, he can bring as many friends as he likes, but he absolutely must bring a hat. What follows is a crazy and humorous series of events as our main character attempts to meet this condition, and gain entry to the party.


The format is familiar; a main character must meet a growing list of conditions as they attempts to achieve their goal. By the conclusion of the book the boy is accompanied by a host of characters including a monkey in a hat with a borrowed monocle, Geoff the piano playing badger and a penguin with a suitcase full of cheese. It’s crazy and it is very funny and as we draw to a close there is a huge “Look behind you!” moment as we realise that the boy is trying to get into the wrong house. This, along with the amount of detail in the illustrations, suggests considerable repeat reading potential as the child memorises the list of characters and their lines, and then has the opportunity to shout “You’re at the wrong house!” at the main character and giggle a lot. Well, that’s how it was for me anyway.


The only glitch in my experience was when the author changes gear half way through the book. We seemed to skip the page where Geoff the badger demonstrates his piano playing, and with an absence of page numbers I found myself flicking back and forth a few times in confusion wondering what I had missed. From the second read this would no longer be an issue, and I wonder if it would only confuse the adult reader rather than the children, who (in my experience) can adapt much faster to this change of pace.


The story is beautifully and skilfully illustrated by Kate Hindley, whose other published works include Oliver and Patch and How To Wash A Woolly Mammoth. Kate’s loose, colourful and fresh style suits this story perfectly and the characters are captured superbly.  To further enhance the reading experience and provide lots of interest, Kate has packed most of the 32 pages with lots and lots of detail, often squeezing over a dozen characters into her colourful scenes in the foreground and background. I had a lot of fun spotting the extra touches which I suspect came from the imagination of the illustrator. The cover image too is a wonderful montage of characters, which, along with the scale of this book will ensure it has considerable bookshop shelf appeal. Who can resist a book which has a worm with a bow tie on the cover?

This is a clever and funny story which the publishers have matched with the perfect illustrator to create a memorable and giggle-inducing story time experience.

Kate Hindley has published over a dozen books and you can see more of her work here.

You Must Bring a Hat (along with I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat also published by Simon and Schuster) represents Simon Philip’s debut. You can learn more about him here.

You may also be interested in these book reviews:

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13th July 2016

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