There is not a lot of middle ground on this book. Readers will either find it wildly funny and truly love it, or dismiss it as an odd children's book they don't get. The style is quite distinctive and the humor is deadpan. I find it hilarious, particularly the surprise ending.
The storyline is very straightforward: the bear has lost his hat and wants it back. He makes the rounds, asking all the other animals if they have seen it. Neither the fox nor the frog have seen the bear's headgear and they are quite polite about it. The rabbit, however, seems very defensive, and not a little bit shifty. Also, he's wearing a pointy red hat while they are talking, but this apparently doesn't register with the bear as he thanks rabbit for his time and moves on. The bear asks three more animals about his hat before he becomes discouraged and lies down on his back in the grass.
It is very humorous how the bear doesn't change position or expression for the first seven pages. The other animals are illustrated similarly, staring forward in a flat sort of way. It would be creepy if the overall effect wasn't so darn funny. All the pages that are directly related to the hat share the common element of red. The hat itself is red, the rabbit's words are the only red text, and the page with the bear's realization stands out with a solid red background. The entire book is very clever, in an understated way. And extremely funny!
Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.