Miz Fannie Mae's Fine New Easter Hat
When the eggs on Miz Fannie Mae's Easter hat begin to hatch in church the congregation proclaims a miracle.
From The Critics
Debut illustrator Chen makes a shining first impression with cheery, realistic watercolors of old-time country scenes and Sunday clothes. His paintings give a sense of place and community to Milich's inviting tale of an African American family and a surprising Easter miracle. Large-scale pictures emphasize the emotions of the sweet-tempered young narrator, Tandy, who with her jovial Daddy rides all the way into town in their horse-drawn wagon to select a fancy new hat for Mama. The straw bonnet, brighter than everything around it, is resplendent with lace and netting and topped with fruit, flowers and four speckled eggs. This final decoration gives the story a fetching spin and a pleasantly unanticipated ending. Milich (Can't Scare Me!) provides Tandy with a sharp-sighted insouciance: her Daddy has "hands like bread baked too long" and the hat worn by a fellow churchgoer resembles "a flying saucer ready for takeoff." Designed with a small typeface and a number of text-heavy pages, this volume may prove difficult for beginning readers. But its sunny spirit makes it a winning springtime treat. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
The birth of baby birds from Fannie Mae's hat becomes an Easter miracle to inspire her congregation and her family. This historical tale centers on a miraculous Easter hat, but it's the unique characters that really bring it alive. The heartwarming family includes a young daughter who so carefully picks out the hat, a father who destroys the hat in by wearing it on his milk route, and a mother who gives up her coveted hat to become a nest when the eggs on it hatch. Despite one noticeable incongruity between the written text and the illustrations, they do provide vibrant details that give the characters and setting a rich and realistic appeal.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2Tandy and her Daddy go off to the big city to buy her mama an Easter hat. As soon as she spots the broad-brimmed beauty with fruits and flowers and four little eggs nestled at one side, Tandy knows this is the right one, and her father buys it in spite of the high price. Mama insists that the expensive item be returned, but Daddy wears it on his milk-delivery route so that she must keep it. As the proud family sits in church that Easter, the eggs begin to hatch and are mothered by a starling sitting in the rafters. Mama's hat ends up on a tree limb and serves as a nest to generations of birds. The tale is based on a true family memory, but children will have to decide for themselves when fantasy takes over. The warm evocation of family and small-town life is in the vein of Gloria Jean Pinkney's Sunday Outing (Dial, 1994) and Elizabeth Howard's Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) (Houghton, 1991). Chen's mellow watercolors feature happy faces bathed in the warm sunshine of memory and a variety of interesting perspectives. The solid reality of this family and the fun of the ending help move the story along. A gentle read-aloud that provides a chance for some casual discussion of the past.Sally Margolis, formerly at Deerfield Public Library, IL
A truth-is-stranger family story from Milich (Can't Scare Me!, 1995, etc.) and newcomer Chen.
The daughter and father in a rural black family travel by horse-and-wagon 25 miles to the big city to buy the mother an ornate hat for Easter Sunday. At home, Mama deems it too expensive and puts it aside to return. When Daddy wears it on his milk route the next morning, he tells her the hat has been worn, and she must keep it—a fact that doesn't entirely displease her. She wears the hat to Easter service, where four bird's eggs on its brim hatch during the sermon. The babies' mother has apparently followed it from town to rear the babies, and the whole congregation is caught up in the miracle. At home, Mama places the hat in the branches of a tree. Although the jacket copy makes reference to the truth of the tale, readers will find it farfetched and long-winded. Chen's portraits are often graceful, occasionally awkward, focusing on people, leaving the landscape and interiors as little more than sketches. The faces almost uniformly wear smiles, rendering the book one-dimensional with its glowing good will.
Ages 5-8. With Easter approaching, Tandy travels to the city with her father to select a new hat for Mama. Mama considers the hat too expensive but finally relents. On Easter, the hat is the scene of a "miracle" when birds hatch from the eggs on the brim and the mother bird joins them. The soft, expressive watercolor illustrations portray a loving African American family, but children may wonder about Tandy's sister and two brothers, who appear in a family portrait but are otherwise absent in both text and pictures. Nor is the diction consistent: Mama switches from her initial Black English to standard speech later in the tale. Although thematically reminiscent of Ezra Jack Keats' Jennie's Hat (1966), this lacks Keats' clear focus and lean prose. Verbose and digressive, it reads like a chapter from a novel and may be better suited for collections of transitional fiction than of picture books. Linda Perkins