CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 12. . . .November 19, 2010.
Grinelda the Mad Hatter.
Mary Jo Reinhart. Illustrated by Paula Nathan.
Vancouver, BC: Gumboot Books, 2008.
36 pp., stapled, $9.99.
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Christine Torchia.
"Grinelda is a rare bird," said Mrs. Wolfe, when she spied a rainbow of feathery plumes peeking over the hedge.
"Grinelda is weird," said the other kids, when she came to school wearing a jewel-studded crown, a fury green cap, or a little hat drizzled with stars.
Lucy, Rose and Sal rode the bus with Grinelda. Each morning they compared their pointed shoes and scratchy pink sweaters. Secretly, they each waited to see what the Mad Hatter would wear.
Lucy was usually the first to see and would roll her eyes to the sky. Rose would snicker under her breath and Sal would turn her back and pretend Grinelda wasn't there.
At recess, Grinelda sat under a tree with her sketch pad.
Once, on a dare, Lucy peeked to see what Grinelda was drawing.
"What else?" reported Lucy. "Nothing but hats!"
Rose was curious. "What kind of hats?" she asked.
"All kinds," replied Lucy. "All kinds of goofy, stupid, ugly hats!"
Grinelda the Mad Hatter is a colorfully illustrated, inspiring story about a young girl who loves to create new and unique hats. Some neighbors call her "sweet" or "a rare bird," but the other children just think she's weird. At the bus stop every morning, three girls from school, Rose, Lucy and Sal, compare their similar outfits. All three are secretly interested to see what Grinelda will wear, but they all make fun of or ignore Grinelda, the Mad Hatter.
Grinelda spends her recesses sketching hats while the other girls make fun of her designs. One morning, the teacher, Mrs. Riley, announces the class play will be Cinderella. Each student is given a part in the play. The three girls get to be the stepsisters even though each thinks she would make a perfect Cinderella. Grinelda will make all the costumes for the play except for the stepsisters who all think their princess dresses from last Halloween will be better than anything Grinelda could make. Grinelda makes beautiful costumes for all the actors, and everybody practices their parts. On the last day before the play, the class has a dress rehearsal. Cinderella, the prince and the stepmother all rave about their beautiful costumes. No one says anything special about the three stepsisters except to call them "little pink triplets."
That night, Grinelda gets a visit from each of the stepsisters, and each one wants to add a special hat to her costume to make her dress for the ball more special than the other two girls' dresses. Grinelda makes each girl unique with her own hat as well as one more accessory. The day of the play, Grinelda helps all the actors get into costume. The stepsisters are nervous, and Lucy even forgets her lines. When they get ready for the ball, each is surprised to see the others' new hat and unintentionally change the scene, fighting like stepsisters over whose hat is the best. The audience enjoyed the play, and Lucy, Rose and Sal laugh at how wonderful they were as the stepsisters with their unique costumes.
The next morning at the bus stop, each girl arrives wearing something unique: Lucy's favorite sweater, Rose's bright red shoes and Sal's yellow dress. Grinelda is welcomed with a cheerful "Good Morning," and everyone smiles.
Grinelda the Mad Hatter is a delightful story with a positive ending. Everyone can relate to Grinelda, and we all know a Lucy, Rose or Sal who make us feel like our uniqueness seems "weird." Grinelda doesn't seem to let anyone stop her from being unique, and, in the end, even the bus stop girls realize it's ok to be different. I highly recommend this story. It will make a great addition to any child's library.
Christine Torchia, an Early Childhood educator/educational assistant and mother of two elementary school children, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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