Friday, 11 April 2014

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 11th April 2014 - "The Queen's Hat" by Steve Antony (Hodder Children's Books)

The Queen's Hat

Written and Illustrated by
Steve Antony

Published by Hodder Children's Books

Inspired by a news story about our beloved monarch nearly losing her hat on a blustery day at Grandson William's helicopter base in Anglesey, Steve Antony's fantastic debut for Hodder Children's Books is exactly the sort of riotous celebration of royalty - and London - that we absolutely can't resist.

From the eye-catching cover design (challenge your little one to count all those bearskins on the Queen's Royal Guards!) to the fast-paced story, we knew we were going to end up reading this book again and again. What I hadn't quite expected was that Charlotte would take this everywhere, as I mentioned to awesome Steve Antony on Twitter, "The Queen's Hat" has barely left Charlotte's side while on her easter hols (and has been dutifully shown to grandparents who also love it to bits).

The Queen is off to visit a very important person one day, and as she leaves Buckingham Palace her hat is caught by the wind, and whisked off her head.

So begins a rip-roaring chase around the capital's greatest landmarks, with The Queen (a sprightly octagenerian) dashing after her windswept headgear.

The beauty of this book is the way that it unfolds. A few guards gamely keep up with Queenie, and after a while the entire company of the Royal Guard join in, until there are hundreds of them dashing all around London to retrieve that hat.

I'm trying not to ruin too many bits for you, because the book made us smile at every single turn of the page (don't you love books that you have to twist this way and that in your lap to get the most out of? We certainly do!)

So many tiny little details are worked into Steve's illustrations (look out for the politicians sharing a cab - they look familiar!). There's a real vibrant energy at work here, and that's something that children will be able to tap directly into. Every single reading of this book has met with fizzing enthusiasm from Charlotte.

There is one scene though, and it's an absolutely brilliant spread as The Queen dashes through London Zoo, pursued by her guards, her corgi, a very tired looking butler - and an absolute TON of Zoo animals all joining in the pursuit. This scene actually held us up quite a bit in every subsequent reading and re-reading as Charlotte loved identifying all the different animals (and I couldn't help giggle about the poor corgi, clinging to a guardsman's trouser leg as he swings through the zoo). Needless to say, she sagely pointed out that the monkeys probably weren't actually helping, more hindering the chase!

I've no idea how long it must've taken Steve to draw all those guards (and if you look at them, they're all subtly different! No copy and paste jobs here) Pardon the pun but hats off to him, this is a truly wonderful, sometimes cheeky but absolutely essential children's book, a joyous thing indeed - and all that effort was worth it because it's a front runner for Charlotte's favourite book of the year so far (high praise indeed!)

"The Queens Hat" will rock your world on May 1st 2014, from Hodder Children's Books.

Charlotte's best bit: The naughty monkeys 'helping out' in the Zoo scene, which is such a fantastic illustration

Daddy's Favourite bit: We have read and re-read this so many times. Eagerly awaiting Steve's next book because if this is anything to go by, he's going to be big, big news and this book is going to win awards by the megaton!

(Kindly sent to us for review by Hodder Children's Books)