A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is an entrancing read-aloud. Bartholomew faces perils cheerfully, correctly assuming that his own blamelessness will carry him through -- he models good sense, optimism, and self-esteem. Beautiful prose, funny dialogue, and expressive illustrations may inspire kids to write their own tales or dramatize this one.
What's the story?
When King Derwin's carriage rolls into town, Bartholomew Cubbins respectfully removes his hat along with everyone else. But another hat appears upon the boy's head -- and another, and another, and another. Furious, King Derwin orders Bartholomew to be brought to the palace. Various royal experts try in vain to get rid of the boy's bewitched headgear, and when Bartholomew receives a death sentence, the friendly executioner explains that it's unlawful to behead people with their hats on.
The king's nasty young nephew offers to push Bartholomew from the highest turret, and on the way upstairs the hats -- which Bartholomew keeps removing -- grow fancier and fancier. Derwin is so entranced by hat 500, a plumed, bejeweled dazzler, that he pardons Bartholomew, spanks his nephew, and buys the hat for 500 gold pieces. Once the king lifts his purchase from Bartholomew's head, the boy is relieved to feel breezes ruffling his hair.
Is it any good?
This is a delightful, funny early Seuss effort written in unrhymed prose and illustrated with witty cartoons, and it's a satisfying read-aloud. The beautifully crafted prose rolls off the tongue, and there's a whole range of funny minor characters. Bartholomew is polite and helpful throughout his ordeal, and his self-confidence never seems to fail him. "The king can do nothing dreadful to punish me," he reasons, "because I really haven't done anything wrong."
This is best read one-on-one so listeners can ask questions, count hats, and peruse the lovingly drawn cartoons (black and white, with red reserved for Bartholomew's hats). Perhaps due to the fact that not everyone could see the pictures well, a second-grade reading audience had trouble focusing. They were unanimous, however, in their dislike of mean, bossy Grand Duke Wilfred: "I'd push him off that tower!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Bartholomew's plight. Have you ever been blamed for something that wasn't your fault? How did you handle it? Were you, like Bartholomew, absolved in the end? How do you think Bartholomew's situation might have turned out if he had been less gracious and polite?