Mr. Zinger’s Hat
Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dusan Petricic
Tundra Books 2012
Themes: Writing, imagination, multigenerational
Synopsis: (from Booklist) Every child needs a Mr. Zinger—and his hat!—in his or her life. A contemplative, self-contained writer who wears a big black hat on his thought-gathering walks, Mr. Zinger nevertheless has time for Leo when the child’s ball misfires and sends the hat sailing. Recovering from the encounter, the kind man engages the child by asking what kind of story the retrieved hat holds. Collaborating on the tale, Mr. Zinger helps Leo use his imagination to create the story-within-a-story about a prince and a ball—both of which seem awfully familiar. Petricic’s illustrations change from loose, soft watercolors to sharply defined cartoon drawings when the two enter the realm of their shared fiction. When the dreamy washes resume, Mr. Zinger continues along his walk, while Leo pays forward the storytelling hat trick to a new playmate, this time with his own baseball cap. This book oh-so-softly brings across a sweet, multigenerational message about sharing the power of imagination.
Resources: I didn’t find resources for this book, but since this book is about a hat, imagination, and creating a story, I thought of an activity that I believe will be all kinds of fun for the classroom. Then, I am going to refer you over to Susanna’s blog for another great activity created by Susanna with a hat element suggested by me in my second activity below.
Activity1: Have the students bring a hat to school. Read Mr. Zinger’s hat. Then have students don their hats and give them a “Once upon a time” start. Have them write for five minutes, and then prepare to pass their paper to the next student. Have them remove their hats and hold them out upside down to receive the paper of their neighbor. The next student will continue the story started by the previous student. (It would be fun to have them pass hats, as well as papers, …but probably wouldn’t be too sanitary!) Continue writing and passing until the paper has been to six students. I just picked the number six randomly. You could do more or less depending on the age. Then return the paper to the original student and (1) Let them use the contributions from other students for ideas for their story or (2) Have them read the story aloud as is.
Activity 2: For this activity, you will need four hats. Over at Susanna’s blog at this exact link , she has a ready-made writing activity that we did this summer in her Short and Sweets Series. I’m just adding the hats! In her activity, Susanna had us pick four numbers for character, time, setting, and situation… but in honor of Mr. Zinger and his hat, you would use Susanna’s lists given on her website to put characters, etc. on strips of paper to go in the four hats. One for character, one for time, one for setting, and one for situation. Then the kids would chose one strip from each hat and use it to write their story. This will all make sense if you click HERE and read Susanna’s explanation and see her example. There are more examples in the comments.
Why I Like This Book: This book is all about imagination and stories…and that is why I write these reviews, and read reviews by the wonderful bloggers who contribute to Perfect Picture Book Friday. I love the multigenerational aspect in Mr. Zinger’s Hat. The interaction between the two generations is endearing and fun. This is a great book to encourage and inspire kiddos to write. The two styles of illustrations complement the text, making the story AND the story-within-the-story unique.
Susanna Leonard Hill features Perfect Picture Book Friday on her blog. This is a wonderful resource if you are wondering what books to give as gifts, needing material for a lesson, or just looking for a great book to read. Here is a list of books by category. Each book listed has a link to a review, information about that book, and resources for activities. There is also an alphabetical list.