Virginnie's Hat 


         Illustrated by Holly Meade  *  ISBN 978-0763623975        


Artwork © 2007 Holly Meade

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Cover Art © Holly Meade

Virginnie is a freckly gal who wears a wide straw hat to shade her from the southern sun. When a puff of wind sends that hat adrift in the swamp — right to the top of a sycamore tree — she braves some scary creatures to get it back! Crawdaddy craw, snickery snake, swaying gator. . . . What will she tell her mama at the end of the day? Lilting language and expressive collages paint a lush, lively picture of a determined young girl and her dauntless adventure.

Behind the scenes:  I was doing some volunteer work at a preschool when I couldn't help watching a very small girl in the school gym trying to throw a basketball into the hoop high above her head.  The hoop was much too high, and the ball was much too heavy.  But she persisted, throwing the ball again and again, totally oblivious to everything else that was going on around her.  I wanted to write a story about a character with this sort of determination and single-mindedness.  The first draft of the story did include a basketball, but I needed the girl in a setting that would allow for snakes, crawdads and alligators  Common sense said that you don't take a basketball into a swamp for shooting practice.  And so Virginnie's ball was changed into Virginnie's hat. 

Book List Review:  Virginnie, a freckle-faced gal with a chapeau the size of the Louisiana bayou, is out for a stroll when the wind carries her hat into the treetops of a nearby swamp. Chasing after it, the plucky southern belle enters the dark swamp, “All twisty through / With kudzu vines,” and throws her boots aloft in hopes of dislodging the wide-brimmed beauty from a sycamore tree. Virginnie is so focused on the task at hand that she fails to notice the local creatures’ thwarted attempts to lunch on her tender young toes. Meade’s spry watercolor and cut-paper illustrations, paired with lively rhyming text incorporating onomatopoeia, alliteration, and regional vocabulary, elevate the book’s simple premise to the makings of a rousing readaloud. The ending packs a humorous punch when the heroine, hat in place and toes intact, finally realizes the dangers of her swampland surroundings and mistakes her mother’s approach for that of a “big ol’ bear.”
Kristen McKulski

Bank Street Best Books: Newly released picture book Virginnie’s Hat, is woven with the talent of author Dori Chaconas and illustrator Holly Meade. The two storytellers contribute to the form and beauty of central character, Virginnie - a figure who sparkles with adventurous spirit, both visually and from within.  As young Virginnie tries to retrieve her ‘runaway' hat from a sycamore tree, some of the neighbourhood’s most creepy creatures spy Virginnie's  toes for their lunchtime treat! With the young girl's eyes firmly on the hat, which creature will nibble on her toes . . . the craw daddy? the slithery snake? or the green alligator? Luckily for Virginnie, help is not too far away! Born from Afro-American perspective, Virginnie’s Hat moves with poetic text and innate rhythm - of Southern days, and determined childhood. Jacqueline Perryman

Milwaukee Children's Books Examiner:
With the summer coming and the hot sun beating down, Virginnie needs a hat to protect her freckled nose. So she buys a bright yellow hat with a nice wide brim. A big, wide brim is great for protection from the sun, but watch out for that wind. As the wind takes Virginnie’s hat on a merry romp the chase is on. Virginnie’s hat leads her into the dark swamp and lands way up in the sycamore tree. While Virginnie eyes are set heavenward on her hat, down by her feet a swamp drama is playing out. The tension builds as Virginnie’s toes suddenly start to look like taste treats for the inhabitants of the swamp.

"Virginnie’s Hat " by Wisconsin author Dori Chaconas is a delightful book. The rhyming text is sweet and flowing. Chaconas has a wonderful ability to choose the right words to set the tone. There’s plenty of humor which is sure to bring a smile to the reader. Caldecott Honor winning Illustrator Holly Meade brings the story to life with lively combination of watercolor and collage artwork that is a treat for the eyes.

Dori Chaconas has written many other picture books and easy readers. Her first book "One Wintry Morning" won the Archer/Eckblad Award for the best picture book by a Wisconsin author in 2000. Her easy to read series Cork and Fuzz published by Viking has also receive many accolades, most recently "Cork and Fuzz :The Collectors" received the CCBC Choices Award for 2009.---Nancy McConnell





© 2007 Dori Chaconas 2007