Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Magritte’s Marvelous Hat

Johnson, D.B. (Author/Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2012. 36 pages
First published: 2012
ISBN: 9780547558646 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

“One bright day in the dark of night” opens this story and, with that absurd inversion, the tone is set: this is a surreal, clever book about a painter and his wilful hat. That day, Magritte purchases a remarkable hat, which floats above his head. Not only does the hat not pinch his ears, but it also helps him paint his best work. The bowler is hilariously personified—“Magritte and the hat took a walk”—and given a mischievous streak that turns out to be contagious, as when the hat flips into a fountain and Magritte jumps in after it. The story is implicitly that of an artist’s’ relationship with the muse, and reifies the notion of inspiration. When the hat escapes out the window, “the colors splashed on Magritte’s face. And his brush unpainted the picture.” After he is reunited with his wayward topper, Magritte is himself lifted into the air.

Magritte is depicted as an elegant dog, and many of the character’s paintings echo the composition of those of his namesake. The framed illustrations, with two lines of text at the bottom, are luminous and full of bulbous shapes and curves, and frequently feature surreal elements—random bubbles or flying baguettes. Occasional pages are printed on transparent acetate, duplicating the effect of the floating hat, suspended over the background of the illustration behind it.

The book includes a short note on surreal thinking and on Magritte and the Surrealists, offering insight into the author’s interest in the Belgian painter’s quotidian thematic choices: “the more ordinary they are, the greater the spark to the imagination.”

  •  

    Listen to the story without looking at the pictures. Illustrate what you hear. Compare your understanding with a partner.

  •  

    On a picture walk, explore the pictures and make a class list of specific characteristics of this book.

  •  

    With teacher resources and support, research basic notions of surrealism. Review your class list and discuss traces of surrealist style in these illustrations.

  •  

    The author uses metaphors such as “the brush danced and the colors sang.” Discuss why authors use figurative language in their writing. Use some metaphors while writing your own text.

  •  

    Listen to the story without looking at the pictures. Illustrate what you hear. Compare your understanding with a partner.

  •  

    Discuss what you know about the painter Magritte and about surrealism. Use teacher-selected resources to add to your understanding and knowledge.

  •  

    On a picture walk, explore the pictures and specific characteristics of this book. Detect traces of surrealism in the pictures.

  •  

    As the text is read again, with the illustrations this time, discuss how the two complement each other to make a better story.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To use creativity
  • To use information
  • Visual Arts