Courage Hats

Chronicle. Mar. 2022. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781797202761.
K-Gr 2–In a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals live harmoniously, a young girl and bear meet for the first time on a train ride to summer camp and help each other overcome a shared fear of trains. While the premise of the title is that courage can be worn, like a hat, before it “comes from your heart,” the core message shifts under other metaphorical weights, with few explanations, to end with counsel that a genuine connection with a friend may be all that is needed to overcome one’s fear. Readers may be distracted by a tangle of certain observable story elements, such as confusion as to what the girl and bear fear, as well as why they make and wear hats to look like a bear and a human, respectively, in order to appear brave on the train. The language surrounding the story’s elements strikes a distinctly abstract tone at times, so the intended young audience will need an adult’s support to delve into the message, though they will enjoy sharing the sights with the two new friends. Thin graphite lines form open, organized layouts made up of light watercolor washes and blends of green, brown, blue, and yellow hues to depict the smooth motion of a train traversing through uncluttered city life and forests.
VERDICT While the illustrations are pleasing to the eye, this story offers confusing messaging about the nature of courage and how it is summoned.

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