Brimsby is a hat maker. He lives in a tiny cottage in the country, and his best friend, a badger, visits daily to chat over delicious hot tea. When his bestie leaves to become a sea captain, Brimsby is lonely and sets out to make some new friends. Birds high up in a tree are too busy keeping warm to pay him any mind. When Brimsby returns with hats for each, large enough to cover their nests and keep out the wind and snow, he makes more than enough new friends in one fell swoop.
One of many things debut author-illustrator Andrew Prahin does so well here is regulate the careful and generous pacing of this story. Never rushing, he gives readers just enough time to believe in the friendship of Brimsby and his friend, and he devotes two spreads to Brimsby’s subsequent loneliness. We feel Brimsby’s loss. In one spread, we see four seasons go by in 12 small vignettes, as Brimsby sews by the window where his friend once sat with him. Prahin also uses white space to great effect. In several illustrations, we see copious white for the abundant snow, as heavy-hearted Brimsby trudges forward to make someone’s acquaintance. It’s moving and possesses a poignant restraint.
The color palette of Prahin’s digitally created art is also smart, as he replaces the warmer colors of his best friend with the cooler, more muted colors of sadness and heavy winter. When Brimsby strikes up a friendship with the birds, glowing pinks are introduced. And when they all head out to visit the sea captain at the book’s close—new friendships never cancel out the old ones, after all—we see vivid greens, as everyone sits by the shore in summer, having tea as a group.
Brimsby’s Hats is a very promising debut and a touching story of friendship from a storyteller I hope we hear from again.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.