Magnificent milliner Madame Chapeau creates the most fabulously flamboyant one-of-a-kind headgear for her devoted customers. In contrast, she herself dresses in a modest fashion. Except on her birthday, when she dons her most frou-frou frock and her best birthday bonnet. But not all goes to plan…
Dubbed no less than “the world’s finest hatmaker”, the aptly named Madame Chapeau has finesse in her fingertips, crafting bespoke hats that are always a perfect match for her distinguished clientele, who arrive “hatless but hopeful” and leave hatted and happy!
While her much feted and fabulous bonnets may have brash ‘look-at-me’ bluster, Madame Chapeau has a dark secret. Far from being a show-off extrovert, she’s actually painfully shy and really rather lonely.
But on her birthday, she bucks up her ideas and puts on her glad rags – only to have her beautiful heart-shaped fascinator whipped away by a thieving crow! Oh no, Madame Chapeau sans chapeau? That just won’t do!
As a succession of hat-wearing folk proffer their own hats as a substitute, each one is in turn rejected. Stetson and sombrero, fez, fedora and flatcap, nothing matches up to the milliner’s lost hat. But then a rather unexpected hat is presented, the like of which Madame Chapeau has never seen. With yellow ear flaps and green pom-poms, it’s far from elegant and refined and quick frankly a little freaky, yet it has one winning quality: it’s knitted with love!
The glorious book, from the best-selling team behind Iggy Peck, Architect and Rose Revere, Engineer, is a harmonious marriage of light, witty rhyming text (which is no mean feat) and stunning illustrations that add exuberance and charm, with plenty of teeny details to spot.
If there’s something familiar about the big wide eyes, pouting lips and mop of shiny dark hair of Madame Chapeau, that is because illustrator David Roberts has based his character on iconic fashion editor, Isabella Blow, famous for wearing the quirky and imaginative hats designed by milliner, Philip Treacy. As a former milliner-turned-illustrator himself, David Roberts showcases hats and headgear as fine art and a form of creative expression. As the adage goes, if you want to get ahead, get a hat!
Featuring dozens of daring designs, the book also serves as a potted (or perhaps hatted) history of all types of headgear. How many famous hats can you spot? There’s the upturned shoe designed by Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s, showing how surrealism influenced fashion; the famous derby bowler hat worn by Charlie Chaplin and the crumpled top hat worn by mime artist Marcel Marceau. You might even recognise the much commented upon creation – a perky bow with dramatic curly-wurly fronds – designed by milliner to the stars Philip Treacy and worn by Princess Eugenie at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
As well as a visual celebration that’s brimful of the frippery and foppery of mad hats, it’s also a sweetly told tale of friendship and finding your own perfect sole mate. And that ultimately, as Madame Chapeau settles for a hat that’s more akin to a tea-cosy with pom-poms, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Hats off to Madame Chapeau and her homage to headgear in all its marvellous quirkiness and flamboyance! If it makes you want to get ahead with a hat, you can create your own simple paper hat, courtesy of Madame Chapeau. Then decorate as you please – the more flamboyant, the better.
Fun fact The tall chef’s hat or toque blanche traditionally had 100 pleats to represent the number of ways an egg could be cooked. Toques (from the Arabic taq for “round”), originally worn by French magistrates, were adopted by haute cuisine inventors Marie-Antoine Carème and Auguste Escoffier to make it clear who was boss – literally chef – in the kitchen.
Did you know? Those who supply men’s hats are called hatters, while those who supply women’s hats are called milliners.
Author notes Andrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois, USA, in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. One of six kids, Andrea aspent summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure. After attending Southern Illinois University to study Biology and Computer Science, Andrea worked for a computer software company. Andrea lives in Chicago with her family.
David Roberts was born in Liverpool. He always loved drawing from an early age and couldn’t wait to go to art college. There he developed a keen interest in pottery and fashion and went on to study a degree in fashion design at Manchester Metropolitan University. After university he worked as a milliner and began to get work as a fashion illustrator but always felt his true calling was in children’s book illustration. He finally realised his dream of becoming a children’s book illustrator when his first book Frankie Stein’s Robot written by Roy Apps was published in 1998. This book was shortlisted for the ‘Mother Goose Award’ for emerging illustrators. Since then he has illustrated works by authors such as Philip Ardagh, Daren King, Julia Donaldson, Jacqueline Wilson, Tom Baker and Chris Priestley. David is also the creator of the ‘Dirty Bertie’ character about a little boy with bad habits such as picking his nose and trumping loudly! David now lives in London.