DCIB Book Club: Where’s Your Hat Abe Lincoln! The Choice of the YOUNG!!!!

Oh boy! This is exciting! We get to discuss my nephew’s favorite book! Perhaps he can join in the discussion? Or perhaps not, since he still can only say about 10 words (“cah”, “chiz”, “yiss”, etc.).

First, if you haven’t had time to buy/read it yet, just watch this video to catch up:

Okay, now we can discuss!!!!!!!

I am legitimately fascinated by how much my nephew (and other children I know) really REALLY love this book. I’d like to think it is because History is Fun, but since these are children who can’t speak English yet, probably not.

I think the appeal gets down to 4 things:

  1. Episodic and overaching narrative. The big story is Abe Lincoln finding his hat. But along the way there are all these slightly related incidents. Meaning if you get bored with the book, you can flip several pages at once and still have it make some sort of logical sense for the Big story.
  2. Dramatically different alternating color schemes. The pages go from almost all white and grey, to all brown, lots of people, to almost no people. I would have thought that The Youth would want a full filled in very busy picture, but instead the appeal seems to be the constant change page to page. If you don’t like brown, no worries, flip the page and you get a big crowd of multi-colored people!
  3. Repeated sentence structure. Each page is just “First Name Last Name is Doing This”. It’s very kind of hypnotic and soothing, at the same time that it is varied because it’s always a different name and a different action. It’s kind of like a sonnet, it starts AA (“Abe Lincoln Cannot find his hat”), and then is all BBBBBBBB through the rest of the book, before going back to A.
  4. Everyone looks different. First, I remember being slightly older than my nephew and seeing a photo of Frederick Douglas for the first time and immediately loving his hair. He just has AMAZING hair!!!! Like, all time great historical figure hair. So we definitely start on a high note. But then everyone else has some simple differences between them, skin tone or clothing or hair or whatever. It’s not boring, especially if you are working on figuring out how faces work and people work and stuff.
TIME for Kids | Frederick Douglass
See what I mean????? AMAZING HAIR!!!! Him, and Indira Gandhi, and Queen Elizabeth II, people you can recognize just from the back of their head.

Now, things that bother me as an Adult reading this book!

First, of course, the message that Abe is just a doofus looking for his hat while everyone else does the work. This does follow the sort of “Team of Rivals” theory that Abe’s greatest gift was in attracting allies. But I still think he could be doing MORE! Like, maybe establish that his draft of The Gettysburg Address is IN THE HAT, and that’s why he needs to find it.

Second, the timeline is all jumbled up!!!! Harriet Tubman was working as a spy by then, and Sojourner Truth was volunteering at hospitals and going on enlistment drives and (supposedly) writing a regiment song for a “colored” regiment. Frederick Douglass was recruiting too, and working with Lincoln to plan for post-slavery America, he wrote a book before and after the war but not during. The whole thing is messed up! This isn’t the Siva Puranam, I can’t handle the circular time line.

Third, no noses. Once one of you pointed it out to me, now I can’t unsee it.

So what do you think?

15 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: Where’s Your Hat Abe Lincoln! The Choice of the YOUNG!!!!

    • And limiting Grant’s importance to just meeting with Lee, instead of all the other stuff he did. Also, if he IS going to meet with Lee, you just gotta include Native American officer Ely S Parker in the background for the whole “We are all Americans” exchange.

      On Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 9:01 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. The six year old liked the story, he thought it was funny that Abe Lincoln couldn’t find his hat, but it was on his desk the whole time. The six year old doesn’t know what slavery is and didn’t catch that this was during the Civil War (he does know about the civil war because his brother the 9 year old is interested in wars and battles). On the one hand I think this is okay because slavery is a big scary concept and not really appropriate for six year olds, BUT when he was six, the 9 year old knew about it. And it was big and scary. I can’t remember when the 12 year old learned about it, but I think it was around 6, as I remember reading slave narratives and he asked me to read what I was reading aloud to him, so I did, he listened, and then his father figured he was ready for the Hobbit.

    As the former children’s buyer (and manager) for a small bookstore I will admit this is not a title I would have rushed to place in the store. And yet we did bring in War & Peace, the board book, which actually sold well. This story, with it’s repetitive text and well, actual story, beats War & Peace for appealing to children. And even if it doesn’t actually teach history, it at least creates a familiarity with historical names.

    As a parent, I remember the favorite books that were read so many times the books were memorized (which is convenient for when you need to calm a child down in odd places). Mole and the Baby Bird, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, these books are etched into my brain and always will be. Thus will Where’s Your Hat Abe Lincoln always be etched into your families brain. Ha! Enjoy…..

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    • Huh. I think I knew about Slavery in a general way when I was 6? Largely because I grew up in Springfield, so there is a sort of simplified version of Slavery on display at all the Lincoln sites. Which was maybe a bad thing? I learned a very happy easy version of Slavery when really it should be a nightmare inducing horror story, or nothing at all.

      Anyway, he is right, it is funny that Abe can’t find his hat!!! And it does give you familiarity with names. Once you get to grad school and start learning about the Civil War, you are going to speak up and say “What about Frederick Douglas?” or “Where does Clara Barton fit in?”

      But, WHY do they like one book better than the other? They can’t understand words! And can barely see things! why is this ONE book somehow the only “good” book and all other books are dross?

      On Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 10:34 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • The kids come out with different personalities from the get go. Part of the joy is a sense of connection with the parent when they read the book, some books bring that out more than others, based both on the parent and the child. Also, different children are drawn to different illustrations. Maybe these people were the first “people” your nephew was able to recognize in a book, thus as he knows they are “people” he will like the book more. Maybe he recognizes the word “hat”. They know and understand a lot before they can speak.

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        • I was just thinking about the different personalities! Remember my post about wanting real estate vibes and how I specifically said “I just want you to tell me it will all work out”? My sister bought a house about 6 months ago and when she was going through real estate agony, she wanted to talk it all out with people and get sympathy and stuff, while I want to just be reassured and forget about it. This is EXACTLY what we were like as little kids and my Mom had to learn that what worked for her first child in terms of reassurance and comfort, would not work for her second child. My sister needed attention and cuddling, I needed alone time.

          On Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 9:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Wow, this is like the South Park version of Abe Lincoln, with somewhat less attention to historical accuracy.

    I’ve always been nonplussed by the existence of this kind of board book for the very young. Why have a board book that purports to be about an Important Topic like history or a retelling of a major literary work, instead of just adorable animals and people with simple illustrations? What do the adults think the 2- or 3-year-old is getting out of the board book version of Pride and Prejudice? How is this superior to actual children’s stories like Hats for Sale or I Want my Hat Back? I’m not asking about your nephew, understand, these baby classics seem to have a big market, though I’ve always thought of them as the kind of book people who don’t have babies would buy for babies.

    Anyway, I’ll stop before I get into reducing figures like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman into anodyne “friends of Abe”, right there alongside Robert E. Lee. If your nephew likes the book, he should be happy in his reading and free from all our grown-up hang-ups. I did appreciate your brother-in-law’s critical analysis :).

    Last wondering: why a map of the Virginias in Abe’s office? Any theories?

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    • I am confident War & Peace the board book sold because the PARENTS wanted to read it. In reality each page had a single word on it, it wasn’t as absurd an idea for the children as it seemed, it was absurd that it could be considered War & Peace.

      Are there any families out there that actually read their children “Go The #$@#! To Sleep” – yet the book always sells…

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      • Oh oh! New TERRIBLE book! “Antiracist Baby”. The idea is a board book breaking down the current ideas of racial justice. Which isn’t necessarily innately bad, but I got a copy from a little free library, and it’s just horribly written! Big words, boring pictures, I lost interest and I’m an adult. Where’s Your Hat Abe Lincoln had the basic sort of simple words and repetition and stuff down, they really tried to make a book a baby would like along with adults. But “Antiracist Baby” is just something you buy to feel good about yourself, and then the baby throws it across the room because it is so boring.

        On Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 9:15 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • A is for Activist was a big seller. A basic board book for babies with big social justice words for each letter of the alphabet. In truth the alphabet as a concept for children who can’t even speak doesn’t really work, yet alphabet board books always sell. The idea that a child who doesn’t yet speak will understand the complex term “activist” also doesn’t work, but they will associate the word with the picture on the page, and if they enjoy reading the book with their parents they may have positive associations with the word later when they learn it again.

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    • My nephew’s eclectic tastes also include Hats for Sale, and Goodnight Gorilla, and recently Rosie’s Walk. But for some reason this book was a huge HUGE hit for about 3 weeks. No idea why. But it was a nice break for his parents from his previous “Doggies-A Barking and Counting Book” obsession, where you have to make different dog sounds over and over again for each page.

      On Sun, Mar 21, 2021 at 2:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Sandra Boynton’s Doggies. I had friends who loved her books to pieces. Family favorites. Not so for my family, they just didn’t click with us. Maybe I read them wrong, or didn’t get the rhythm or something, so I was spared constant barking.

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        • The downside is, my nephew has now learned the word for dog is “woof”. Which makes total sense, if you see a picture of dogs and hear your parents say “woof woof woof”, but somehow I didn’t expect.

          On Mon, Mar 22, 2021 at 9:46 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I’m realizing I’ve missed talking about children’s books. I had to either commit more fully to the bookstore or step all the way out, and as it doesn’t pay enough to cover childcare for three children I stepped all the way out. But clearly I miss it. I love board books, and picture books, and I love talking about them.

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    • Then you will LOVE Ronia! Classic children’s book for slightly older kids. “Classic” meaning, older very popular and well-known, and also “follows the classic rhythms of a book for children, mature but not too mature.”

      I also worked at a kid’s bookstore for a hot minute when I was doing a million part time jobs. My boss was nutty and a terrible manager, but it was a fun job and I got to read so many fun books!

      On Tue, Mar 23, 2021 at 12:52 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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