cover image Courage Hats

Courage Hats

Kate Hoefler, illus. by Jessixa Bagley. Chronicle, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-79720-276-1

Mae and Bear don’t know each other, but they’re on the same multi-species train, and they share trepidation about their respective solo journeys. Pink-skinned child Mae is afraid that the train travels “deep into bear places”—the backwoods. Bear feels similarly about “people places”—the city. Hoefler (Nothing in Common) crafts a solution for both: “Courage is something that comes from your heart—but if you can’t find it there, you can wear it on your head at first.” So Mae and Bear each make a paper bag chapeau that will help them resemble what they fear, and it leads to an instantly reassuring connection—one initially built on mistaken identity, yes, but strong enough to eventually survive a mutual reveal. The text’s plainspoken lyricism (the new friends notice “how a train carries the sky on its back. How the birds join it”) is matched by Bagley’s (Daisy) emotionally nuanced, sensitively paced graphite and watercolor illustrations of the pair moving from a tentative acquaintanceship forged over snacks to heady, adventurous companionship. A visual high point is a series of exhilarating bird’s eye view images depicting the pair’s mutually emboldened exploration of the train. It’s a moving celebration of the joys of a new and unexpected friendship—one born out of a newfound sense of wonder at and assurance in the world at large. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow. (Mar.)