Review by Kaitlyn Chan
Candlewick Press, February 2022
32 pages, Hardcover, $23.99 CAD,
Ages 3-7, Grades Pre-K-2
Picture Book, Fiction
You have likely heard that humans are social animals: we seek companionship and connection from others, human or otherwise. Troy Wilson’s Hat Cat explores this theme through the relationship between a seemingly lonely senior and his found feline, Hat. In this story, young readers learn important lessons about trust and the strength of loving relationships.
The story begins by focusing on the old man, who feeds squirrels outside his house each day. He soon finds a small cat, which he brings home and decides to name Hat. The two become inseparable, except when the old man leaves to feed the squirrels. Instead of taking Hat along, the old man leaves him inside the house, worried he might chase the squirrels or run away. One day, the old man does not return, and a mother and her daughter begin to take care of Hat. It seems that Hat may never see the man again, but it also occurs to him that now may be his chance to escape.
As this tale progresses, the theme of people’s need for companionship becomes more evident. The old man and the later focus, Hat, both experience stages of loneliness in the book where it seems they are seeking out a relationship. The old man lives alone and spends part of his day inviting squirrels to make his acquaintance. Wilson reminds readers, however, that they are never truly alone. The book uses its key symbol, the hat, to show the audience that even when it seems someone might be gone, there will always be a piece of them still with you.
Another key feature of this endearing book is the charming watercolour illustration by Eve Coy. Matching the novel’s tone, Coy uses soft, pleasing-to-the-eye colours that help the reader feel relaxed and, perhaps, embraced by each illustration. The old man and Hat are easily identifiable by their repeating patterns and colours: the man wears his trademark blazer, tie, and hat, all in earthy shades, while Hat has his bright orange patches that draw the eye. Each spread of artwork is so detailed that the fictional world seems more realistic, while the muted colours give it an ethereal feeling. These illustrations by Coy complement the book’s message about the warmth and pleasure of togetherness.
Hat Cat offers an escape into an enchanting world where characters learn what it means to care and show their appreciation for each other. Readers discover the importance of trust and the beauty that can blossom when we allow others into our lives. Wilson and Coy have created a book that both soothes and educates the minds of young people, showing them the fulfilment of companionship and the many ways it can come about.