Every Easter when I was a little girl, my mother bought me a new spring hat to wear to church. It was usually a simple straw hat with a velvet ribbon. Like Jennie, I longed for something with more pizzazz: silk flowers, green leaves, maybe even a butterfly. Oh, how I would have loved a bouquet topped with a nest of chirping fledglings.
Ezra Jack Keats had a unique ability to tap into the sensibilities of young children. He understood their single-mindedness. He respected their emotions. He celebrated the inherent logic of their imaginations. (Of course Jennie’s bird friends come to the rescue and create the most beautiful hat of all. That’s what friends do!)
Unlike many of Keats’s books, with their colorful, saturated cityscapes, there is a lot of white space in the pictures in Jennie’s Hat. This allows the collaged hats and birds to create strong silhouettes and a jazzy syncopation from page to page. How is it possible that the pictures look fresh and new even today, almost 50 years after they were created? And speaking of 1966, notice how quietly Keats slipped in an unusual (for that era) illustrative detail. Yes, the church congregation is integrated.
Thank you, Ezra Jack Keats, for being ahead of your time. And thank you for all your beautiful, brilliant books. Like Jennie’s hat, they will be ‘saved and looked at and remembered for a long, long time.”