The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony

A flyaway hat is the plot device that drives the tale of The Queen’s Hat — the stunning debut picture book by author-illustrator Steve Antony. Of course, when the hat in question belongs to none other than the Queen of England, what could have just been a simple chase-and-grab scenario quickly escalates into a royal spectacle that takes readers on a delightful romp through the city of London.

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And, as the surprisingly sprightly and determined Queen — trailed by a veritable army of the Queen’s Guard, her pet corgi and a particularly industrious servant — traverses London in a bid to get her hat back, it is the city itself that almost steals the show, thanks to the author’s lovingly rendered architectural illustrations of well-known landmarks such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the London Eye taking centre stage on many pages. (Special mention must also be made of the author’s cheeky — and, in real life, highly implausible — depiction of the primly dressed Queen at the controls of one of the infamous London Underground trains, packed to the gills with her overdressed entourage.)

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A closer examination of the illustrations further reveals the level of thought and effort that went into conceptualising and executing the book: for instance, other than black, only the colours of the Union Flag are used throughout the book! Also, the author has even taken the trouble to vary the facial features of the uniformed guards so they don’t look like clones of each other.

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In addition, the dramatic double-page chase scenes are not only a feast for the eyes, but also cleverly designed with the added bonus of a Where’s Wally-style activity for readers where they can look for: 1) the Queen, 2) her corgi, 3) her hat, and 4) the incongruous butler sticking out like a sore thumb, who’s trying to keep up with the mass entourage while balancing a tray with a pot of tea — a hilarious reference to the stereotypical British tradition.

As if all of the above were not enough to draw your interest, the book even manages a classy nod to the then-new arrival of the royal family’s youngest member, Prince George — making this the ultimate blue-blooded British picture book, and possibly the most stylish and worthwhile souvenir of London you can buy.

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