Magritte’s Marvelous Hat: Surrealism for Kids

Geek Culture

Magritte's Marvelous Hat by D. B. JohnsonMagritte's Marvelous Hat by D. B. Johnson Kids are surreal.

Any parent could tell you that. The things they say and do can be completely off the wall and reflect a different reality than the one that we experience — and then we train it out of them, and wonder why so many adults find it difficult to be creative.

Why not encourage them to explore artwork that’s out of the ordinary? That’s what D.B. Johnson is doing with his new book Magritte’s Marvelous Hat. Johnson has written and illustrated many children’s books, but this one is probably most akin to his take on M. C. Escher, Palazzo Inverso (which I reviewed two years ago). That book had a fun flip-upside down feature to take advantage of Escher’s wild perspectives.

Magritte’s Marvelous Hat is (as you may have guessed) about René Magritte, although in this picture book he’s a dog. (So is everyone else.) The iconic bowler hat that appears in many of Magritte’s paintings is the focus of the book, which works in sly references to many of the surrealist artist’s famous works. It floats above the dog’s head, and eventually leads to some fun adventures.

Every picture has something fun to see in it, little details that will have your kids scratching their heads, but what’s especially fun is that there are four transparent pages in the book, used to great effect. There are some images printed on both sides of the transparencies that affect the two-page spreads surrounding them, with text that goes along with it. You can get a sense of it in this book trailer:

But even the pages that don’t have the transparencies are excellent, and I had a lot of fun sharing this one with my kids. The story itself isn’t really based on Magritte (other than that he’s a painter) but the author’s note at the end of the book tells a little bit more about the real Magritte and surrealism. One thing about Magritte (as opposed to some other famous surrealists like Salvador Dali) is that his paintings generally don’t feel disturbing or shocking, so much as a little bit surprising and mysterious. A little more kid-friendly, if you will, which makes them the perfect inspiration for this delightful picture book.

If you’ve always found yourself intrigued by Magritte’s paintings, Magritte’s Marvelous Hat is an excellent way to share that fascination with your kids — and makes a good jumping-off point to show them some of Magritte’s actual works as well!

Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this book.

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