Matt Katz, president of Kat Hats Incorporated in the city of Pretzelburg, runs a successful business as a world-renowned cat trainer. Kat Hats are felines who have been trained to arrange themselves on the heads of humans “as a living headpiece.” (Be sure to remove the book’s dust jacket to see some charming examples.) The Kat Hat shop doubles as the home Matt shares with his wife, Glamorella, and their children, Pocketmouse and Lambkin. Also visiting the family is “the pride and joy of Kat Hats, and the warmest cat ever known,” Thermal Herman 6⅞ths. If you can’t already tell from the character names, Kat Hats is beloved author Daniel Pinkwater delivering what his fans love: a story that sparkles with eccentric characters, skillful comic pacing and originality.
At its heart, this is an adventure tale. It seems that the local witch, Chickarina, has gone on a hike up the Witch’s Spitz with an “extra-large jumbo frozen fruitsicle, blueberry and avocado flavor.” Her son, Old Thirdbeard, knows that she often gets an ice cream headache when consuming such treats and worries she is stuck atop the snowy mountain with a “frozen brain.” Since Chickarina was not wearing her witch’s hat when she was last seen, the Katzes know the solution: Send Thermal Herman 6⅞ths out into the cold night to find her.
Illustrator Aaron Renier’s thickly textured gouache illustrations bring the Katz family and their unusual work to life in vivid and entertaining detail. We read, for instance, that Glamorella is famous for her pretzels flavored with peach and apricot; Renier paints her baking them while wearing a space helmet (which is, in point of fact, a cat). The book’s full-bleed spreads—no borders can contain this family’s spunk—are packed with many such peculiar surprises, ready and waiting for readers to discover.
Utterly weird and wonderful, Kat Hats is a picture book you won’t soon forget.