Magritte's Marvelous Hat

Overview

"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see." —Rene Magritte

D.B. Johnson writes and illustrates the surreal story of famous surrealist painter Rene Magritte and his very mysterious (and mischievous!) hat. While the art reflects some of Magritte's own work, the text sets readers on a fun and accessible path to learning about the simpler concepts behind Mr. Magritte's work.

This delightful picture book captures the playfulness ...

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Overview

"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see." —Rene Magritte

D.B. Johnson writes and illustrates the surreal story of famous surrealist painter Rene Magritte and his very mysterious (and mischievous!) hat. While the art reflects some of Magritte's own work, the text sets readers on a fun and accessible path to learning about the simpler concepts behind Mr. Magritte's work.

This delightful picture book captures the playfulness and the wonderment of surrealist art. Four transparent pages add yet another level of surrealism to the illustrations as pictures can be altered with the turn of a page.

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  • Magritte's Marvelous Hat
    Magritte's Marvelous Hat  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Johnson follows Palazzo Inverso, his topsy-turvy homage to M.C. Escher, with a delightful salute to another mind- bender, Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Unexpected design elements, notably reversible images printed on transparent pages, surprise readers with clever illusions and artistic allusions: an arched gateway becomes an under-the-umbrella downpour with a page turn. “One bright day in the dark of night,” Magritte—a sophisticated gray dog with smooth black hair, à la Magritte’s self-portraits—purchases a gravity-defying bowler hat. Like a playful pet, the strange chapeau hovers above his head and loves “pretending to blow away.” As Magritte indulges its games, he finds painterly inspiration, but when he tells it to behave, it rockets out a window. The painter chases the hat through Parisian streets, passing enigmatic imagery from his canvases: blue skies, dense objects that hang weightless, solid surfaces revealed to be two-dimensional. Presumably to avoid tobacco, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” does not appear, but cursive lettering (“This is not a hat”) lines a hat-shaped fountain. Rather than magnify surrealism’s sinister edge, Johnson focuses on its energy and borrows that exuberance for his own see-through pages. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"A visual tour de force...Arty, amusing and exceedingly cleve."—Kirkus "Beckoning, buoyant...brilliant."—School Library Journal, starred review "Unexpected design elements, notably reversible images printed on transparent pages, surprise readers with clever illusions and artistic allusions...Rather than magnify surrealism's sinister edge, Johnson focuses on its energy and borrows that exuberance for his own see-through pages."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In this story based on the life of the painter Rene Magritte, he is depicted as a well-dressed, floppy-eared dog; the other characters are also animals. "One bright day in the dark of night," Magritte spots a marvelous hat in a store. When he tries it on, it floats above his head, and stays there. The hat seems to make his painting easier and his pictures better. But the hat begins to misbehave. When it flies out the window, Magritte's brush unpaints his picture. The artist runs after the hat in vain. Finally, he tricks the hat into looking for him. It finds him at home and sits on his head, lifting him into the air. And he paints better than ever. To enjoy this imaginative tale the reader must be willing to play in Magritte's surreal world. Using mixed media, handsomely attired anthropomorphic animals as his actors, and immaculate, sterile streets and parks as his stage, Johnson treats us to a series of actions that almost seem influenced by silent films. He also occasionally inserts sheets of clear plastic that carry the visual narrative when turned over and add to the surprise. He adds a note on his inspiration and on the surrealist background. Hats dance across the end pages. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4—"One bright day in the dark of night, the painter Magritte saw a marvelous hat in a store window." So begins this playful introduction to the style and subjects of the Belgian surrealist. Just as Johnson invited children into Thoreau's world in the "Henry" books by employing a bear to enact slices of the philosopher's life, here he casts a dog in the starring role. The bowler hat floats above the canine's head, infusing him with newfound energy, confidence, and ability. The art flows until the painter becomes overly absorbed in his work and attempts to control the bowler's impetuous personality. When the hat flees, the hunt begins. Early-20th-century Paris is the setting for parodies of many famous paintings, from "This Is Not a Pipe" ("hat" is substituted for "pipe," and it functions as a fountain) to the iconic picture of a landscape simultaneously covering the window and merging with the scene outside. References to Magritte's visual impossibilities and details are woven throughout; the illusions are further enhanced through the occasional use of cellophane pages that cleverly function on both sides. The artist's fascination with the limits of perception and two-dimensional representation provides mind-boggling images that children will relish. Johnson's additional layer of a hide-and-seek game and the inclusion of his own tricks offer more reasons to look closely. An author's note gives a brief context. Moving back and forth between this book and Magritte's art would be instructive and enjoyable for puzzle enthusiasts of any age. Beckoning, buoyant…brilliant.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Johnson recasts René Magritte as a dapper, blue-eyed hound and incorporates the painter's surreal iconography into a visual tour de force. Magritte encounters a hat that, when donned, "popped up and floated just above his head." Inspired, he hurries home and paints a self-portrait, "his best picture ever." The black bowler hat (a familiar, recurrent image in Magritte's paintings) is characterized as a playful muse, engaging the artist in frisky games on walks. When, absorbed in his work, Magritte ignores it, the indignant chapeau flies away. Nine spreads depict an elaborate chase, Magritte first in pursuit, then reversing: "Bet you can't find me!" Back in Magritte's studio, the hat lands atop his head and levitates him. Working every day, never neglecting his inspiring accessory, he paints new pictures "better than his best." Johnson zealously incorporates surreal elements to tickle both art appreciators and preschoolers. Four see-through acetate pages cleverly transform adjacent spreads. Magritte's paintings are mined for dozens of images, slyly inserted. During one chase, the hat lands atop a fountain, itself shaped like a giant, water-spewing bowler. On the fountain's "brim" is inscribed, "This is not a hat"—an allusion to Magritte's painting of a pipe, famously inscribed "This is not a pipe." There are levitating baguettes, giant green apples, a monument with Magritte's birth and death dates reversed—and more. Arty, amusing and exceedingly clever. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)
Nell Casey
The book's greatest appeal…is its appropriately wondrous artwork—large mixed-media illustrations with dreamlike details modeled after Magritte's own paintings…
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547558646
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/17/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: Library Edition
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 531,091
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

D. B. Johnson has been a freelance illustrator for more than twenty years and has done editorial cartoons, comic strips, and conceptual illustrations for magazines and newspapers around the country. Mr. Johnson’s first picture book, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, was a New York Times bestseller and a Publishers Weekly bestseller, as well as an American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists.” Henry Hikes to Fitchburg also won numerous awards, including the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Picture Books and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Linda, live in New Hampshire. Visit his website at www.henryhikes.com!


D. B. Johnson has been a freelance illustrator for more than twenty years and has done editorial cartoons, comic strips, and conceptual illustrations for magazines and newspapers around the country. Mr. Johnson’s first picture book, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, was a New York Times bestseller and a Publishers Weekly bestseller, as well as an American Bookseller “Pick of the Lists.” Henry Hikes to Fitchburg also won numerous awards, including the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Picture Books and the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Linda, live in New Hampshire. Visit his website at www.henryhikes.com!

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