All Dressed Up

A collection of illustrated books about what we wear,
and why, and how

Whether we’re dressing for comfort or trying to impress, we spend our lives wearing clothes of one sort or another. And our choices reveal more about us than we like to admit, so it’s no wonder that cloaks and hats and dresses and shoes take so many different roles in the stories that follow.

In this collection of illustrated books about clothes and dressing up, you’ll find tales of disguise and transformation, memories of far away and long ago, stories about fitting in and standing out, intriguing non-fiction, and iconic folktales with a twist.

Chosen for their ‘reading for pleasure’ appeal, these books invite us to think about clothes in different ways, and activities are suggested for every title. If you have a favourite book that’s not included, why not let us know about it?

Some of these books have a particularly wide appeal when used as starting points for cross-curricular learning, so you may find that our age guides differ from those suggested elsewhere. You know your audience, though, and how you expect to share these books - so please do use your own best judgment. 

If you’d like to buy any of these books, they’re available in the Cast of Thousands bookshop at HERE
Cast of Thousands receives a small commission on every purchase made, helping us stay independent and freely accessible for everyone. So thank you for supporting us! 

Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien, published by Walker Book

Disguises bring many opportunities for jokes and fun – especially when their owner has expectations that are so at odds with reality...

Hoot Owl is hungry. But with his speed and cunning - and his ability to come up with a disguise for every occasion - Hoot Owl is sure to catch his prey. 

Or is he? 

Hoot Owl’s victims seem to find his disguises remarkably easy to penetrate. The rabbit jumps out of range of Hoot-Owl-the-carrot, and Hoot-Owl-the-Birdbath has no chance of catching the pigeon.

Happily for Hoot Owl, opportunity arrives in the form of a sausage pizza. Dressed as a waiter in a pizza restaurant, at last Hoot Owl is able to use his deadly-dangerous beak!

Sean Taylor’s hilarious text finds its match in Jean Jullien’s brightly-coloured and stylized graphics. This is a book with wide appeal, and offers lots of opportunities for Hoot Owl fun.   

Exploring this book together

Dream up some new disguises for Hoot Owl. How, where and why will he use them? Draw a new double spread for this book, showing Hoot Owl about to strike!

Construct Hoot Owl stick puppets using card and lolly sticks. Can you make Hoot Owl fly through the ‘terrible silence of the night’? Where is he going? What will happen next? Tell the story.

But as well as being wise, I am a master of disguise. I organize a costume...”

Can you disguise yourself as Hoot Owl?

Suggested age range: 3– 6 yrs 


Old Hat written and illustrated by Emily Gravett, published by Two Hoots

Hats can transform how we look and feel, and are a great way to ‘fast forward’ into roleplay. This story uses hats to help us think about conformity, self-expression and that elusive thing called ‘style’....

Harbet loves his cosy hat. It has earflaps and a pom-pom, and his Nana knitted it. Sadly, the other animals only care about the latest trends. “Old Hat!” they laugh, as Tarbet approaches.

So Tarbet buys a fruit-topped hat, instead. It’s fresh and fun (and provides 80% of his daily vitamins)  but it doesn’t stay fashionable for long. Soon Tarbet is being mocked again, and so begins a relentless round of hat-buying in a race to stay ahead. But nothing works. Every hat Tarbet wears is Old Hat - until Tarbet does something no-one else has done before. 

He takes off his hat.

And in a burst of visual joy, we can see exactly why the fashionable world is left speechless. Sometimes, just being yourself is the most stylish thing of all.

Exploring this book together

Why do the other animals make fun of Tarbet? Who sets the fashion? How are Top Hat Magazine and the hat shop involved?

Design new hats for Tarbet – or draw hats from observation, using pen and ink, and add them to the endpapers!

Suggested age range: 3-6 years


The Dress and the Girl written by Camille Andros, illustrated by Julie Morstad, published by Abrams

Clothes have a powerful impact on how we feel, and wearing them creates lifelong memories....

Many years ago on a Greek island, a mother made a dress for her daughter. The girl loved that dress and wore it everywhere. But despite the beauty of their surroundings, both girl and dress  longed for adventure. 

Their dream becomes reality when the girl’s family emigrates to New York – but somehow, in the excitement of their arrival, the trunk containing the dress is lost. All alone, it roams the world, and the girl must grow up without the dress she loved so much. Eventually, the girl and her dress are reunited, in a way that takes us to the heart of what this book is asking us about the objects we value, memories, and the passage of time.

Morstad’s style is influenced by folk art and her quiet palette creates a mood that is well-suited to Andros’s gentle text. This thoughtful, poetic picturebook has wide age-appeal.  

Exploring this book together

Can you remember loving an item of clothing when you were younger? What was it? How did it make you feel? What did you do together?  What’s your favourite item of clothing right now?

What happens to the clothes we no longer need or want? Find out about recycling, ‘vintage clothes’ and the work done by charities in reselling or distributing donated clothes and shoes.

Explore a collection of old clothes. Try them, and roleplay different characters. Who could have owned these items of clothing? What did they do, and where did they go while they were wearing them? Make up stories about their adventures. Draw the clothes (or fabric patterns) from careful observation, and use to illustrate your stories. 

What is “singular, stunning or sensational” about your everyday surroundings? Could you be missing what is right in front of you? Go on an expedition to find out.

Could you sew or knit a homemade item of clothing for yourself? Or for a toy?

Suggested age range: 5 -10 years

The Secret of the Tattered Shoes written by Jackie Morris and illustrated by Ebdollahi Esan, published by Tiny Owl

Dancing shoes  - and dresses - feature in a traditional story about secret adventures and girl-power. This thoughtful version doesn’t ascribe a location to the story, but the artwork takes us somewhere that feels magically different

Here’s a retelling of one of the most popular folktales collected by the Brothers Grimm – the story of the twelve princesses who wear through a pair of dancing shoes every night, even though they appear to be locked in their room.

the princesses ran, in their tag-tattered dance-battered shoes…”

Jackie Morris’s retelling is up there with the best. Just like the enchanted twigs, it shines with wonder and magic, but never forgets its duty to sweep us along, and the personal touches she brings to the story – a battle-weary soldier who has lost the desire to live, and the way he exercises his final choice – anchor it in something more profound.

Ehsan Abdollahi’s sophisticated and unusual artwork commands attention on every page and creates its own enchantment. This is a picturebook that will please older as well as younger readers, and is published in Tiny Owl’s ‘One Story, Many Voices’ series. 

Exploring this book together

Which illustration do you like best, and why? Can you design more dresses for the princesses, using delicate pen lines like Ehsan Abdollahi?

What makes a folktale different from other stories? Read the text carefully and list the ‘bare bones’ of the story. Use your bullet-points to help you retell this story in your own words. Once you’re confident you can remember the main points, add some details that are all your own.

How many different retellings of The Twelve Dancing Princesses can you discover? Compare their storylines and artwork.

Hint: There are three in this list to get you started! 

Suggested age range: 6-10 years   


The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family written by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly, published by Andersen Press  

An ‘own story’ about wearing the hijab and what it means to one girl and her family

Asiya is going into Year Seven, and it’s time for her to choose her first-day hijab. “The first day of wearing hijab is important,” the girls’ mother says.  “It means being strong.”

Asiya’s new hijab is a beautiful blue, “like the ocean waving to the sky,” and Faizah is so proud and excited of her big sister that she can’t wait to see her at break time. 

Asiya’s happily chatting with her friends, who are a visibly diverse bunch, and her hijab isn’t commented on until a trio of silhouetted boys begin to laugh and point. “I’m going to pull that tablecloth off your head,” shouts one of them.

Although the comments upset Faizah on Asiya’s behalf, she remembers her mother’s instruction not to carry hurtful words around. “They are not yours to keep,” she’d said. “They belong only to those who said them.”  So Faizah marks the day, not with a fight, but with a beautiful drawing of two princesses wearing hijabs by the sea.

This feel-good story from U.S. Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad does address prejudice and bullying, but its main focus is the warmth and support that comes from family faith and love, and the strength that comes from being true to yourself. Beautifully illustrated and with wide appeal, this book entertains and instructs, and will start useful conversations.   

Exploring this book together  

How does Faizah feel about Asiya wearing a hijab? How does Asiya feel? What does wearing a hijab mean for Asiya and Faizah? Are there any special items of clothing that people in your family wear? 

Why do the bullies shout at Asiya? Have you ever been bullied because of something you’ve been wearing? How do Asiya and Faizah respond to the bullies? Do you think this was helpful? 

Suggested age range: 4 -7 years

Julian is a Mermaid written and illustrated by Jessica Love, published by Walker Books

What we choose to wear can help us find ourselves and bring us closer to each other

As Julian is riding the New York subway with his Nana, he sees three women dressed to make a splash, and his imagination goes wild. All he can think about is growing his very own fishy tail and swimming underwater. Back at Nana’s house, Julian drapes himself in a lace curtain and creates a head-piece from a potted plant. Ta da! He’s a mermaid, and he feels wonderful… until Nana catches him.  What will she say abut all this mess?

Luckily for Julian, Nana’s heart is wise enough and big enough to understand what’s going on. Instead of a telling-off, she gives him a string of beads and takes him down to the beach, where the mermaids he saw on the subway are strutting their stuff alongside a crowd of others, all dressed in shiny tails and plumage, just like him.

Jessica Love’s dramatic sense of place and space creates an immersive and involving read, and her theatrical experience is evident in every gesture and expansive spread. This lovely book explodes with space and light, creating stages for the characters to express themselves, and the minimal text gives them a voice while allowing us to observe, imagine and connect. 

Faultlessly observed, stylish and with an understated warmth that really makes it stand out, Julian is a Mermaid has something important to say about identity and self-esteem. Time spent with Julian allows us to see the world through his eyes and the joyful conclusion to his story is something we can all celebrate.

Exploring this book together

Have you ever worn special costumes for a play or parade? A family or cultural occasion? 

Tell us about it! How did it feel to dress up or pretend to be someone else? 

Copy Julian’s postures and expressions as he dresses up and swims with fish. How do you think he moves when he’s underwater? Try out some ideas and join them to create a mermaid sequence. Choose some watery music and perform your sequences. 

Source a collection of fabulously suitable items, such as unwanted party clothes, scarves, fabric swatches and old curtains together with beads and other accessories. Provide a mirror, a table with drawing materials, templates for capturing costume ideas and a display area. Invite children to explore ideas and put together outfits for mermaids and other characters.  Then host your own Parade!

For lots more activity ideas, check out our Cast of Thousands Book Feature 

Suggested age range: 3 – 10+ years (depending on how and why you’re sharing it)

Brenda is a Sheep written and illustrated by Morag Hood, published by Two Hoots

What do our clothes say about us? Can we assume too much from appearances?

Brenda is a sheep. She has a very nice woolly jumper, eats grass and is just as friendly as all the other sheep. Or is she? Is it possible that Brenda is planning a mint-related feast? 

The joke at the heart of this book is obvious, but it’s explored to great effect in the economy of Hood’s text, and its mismatch with the pictures. There is mild peril, but its resolution will please even the youngest and most sensitive of readers.  

Exploring this book together

Why do the other sheep think Brenda is one of them? Do groups of people wear special clothing? What’s the purpose of wearing these clothes? Do they need to wear them, or do they choose to do so? 

Could Brenda become a firefighter? A popstar? A footballer? Draw her wearing clothes that would enable her to blend in with a different group. Make a cardboard cutout of Brenda and draw paper outfits to dress her in. Don’t forget to include tabs before you cut them out!

Sort balls of wool by colour, then use for weaving and plaiting. Wind wool around a 3D form to create a woolly sculpture; hide strands of it around the room and hunt for it; learn to knit… what else can you do with wool? How do other people use it?

Where does wool come from? Find out about sheep farming and how wool is produced.

Suggested age range: 3-7 years

Why Do We Wear Clothes? written and illustrated by Helen Hancocks, published by Puffin/V&A

A stylish non-fiction tour through the clothing and fashion collections at London’s V&A Museum 

What we wear says so much about what we do, where we live and who we are. So why do we wear the clothes we wear? 

This intriguing book draws on the extensive fashion collection in the V&A Museum to explore the “wheres, whys and hows” of the clothes we choose (or are required) to wear. 

Visually exciting and with enough textual interest and detail to interest older readers, this book will inspire you to find out more. Sections include: outfits from around the world, dressing for different types of weather, changing fashions in shoes and hats, fashion icons, historical gems, theatrical costumes and haute couture. 

Exploring this book together

The history of clothes, theatrical costumes, traditional costumes around the world, shoe design…. which theme in this book interests you the most, and why? Find out more about your chosen subject.

Make a collection of clothing items or accessories that are important to you. Sketch them from life, focusing on a detail or capturing the whole. Create colourful layouts inspired by Helen Hancocks’ artwork. Display your collection with museum-style labels - and maybe a guidebook, to help your visitors!

Visit a museum displaying bygone fashions, or browse the V&A’s fashion collections online. Here’s a link to a curated selection of Theatrical Costumes but there is much more explore on the website

Suggested age range: 5-11 years

Mr Brown’s Fantastic Hat written and illustrated by Ayano Imai, published by Minedition

A special item of clothing becomes a catalyst for personal change

Who needs friends? That’s what Mr Brown says to himself. But is it true?

Walking in the park one day and wearing a truly splendid hat, Mr Brown decides to stop for a snooze. Along comes a woodpecker and spies something that looks like a splendid residence for birds. He starts pecking a hole, and Mr Brown wakes up to discover an unwelcome tenant on his head.

What a shock! Mr Brown doesn’t like anyone getting too close, but it’s no good. The woodpecker is here to stay, and soon all the little birds are nesting alongside him. Mr Brown’s hat seems to be growing taller by the day… 

As the birds sing and play above his head, Mr Brown gradually becomes accustomed to their presence. And when – eventually - they fly south for the winter, it’s obvious that he misses them. How will he manage without his singing friends?

Ayano Imai’s delicate, surreal images have much to say, and are definitely the ‘main act’ in this book. The text acts as a prompt to frame our interpretations, but it’s the pictures that hold our attention and remain in our minds. This quiet book will inspire readers to think about how we view the world, and how others view us.

Exploring this book together

Where do woodpeckers usually nest? Why do you think this woodpecker chose Mr Brown’s hat?

What do you think it looks like inside Mr Brown’s hat, with all those birds in residence? Draw a cross section to show how they’re all accommodated!

Make a cardboard version of Mr Brown’s hat, complete with holes and model birds. Take photos of yourself wearing it, then write a story about one of its smallest residents.

Could you make a hat-shaped nesting box, and fix it somewhere safe for birds to use?

Suggested age range: 3-9 years

The Wonderful World of Clothes written and illustrated by Emma Damon, published by Otter-Barry Books

Explore the many ways and whys of wearing clothes worldwide 

In this non-fiction picturebook, Damon’s cheerful watercolours invite the eye to linger, and short chunks of informative text cover a range of topics with wide age-appeal. 

Ambitiously diverse, and with enough range and detail to engage older primary-age readers, this book will happily stand alone as a read-for-pleasure option, but it also makes a great reference book if you’re planning a clothes-themed project.

Topics include Special Jobs, The Life of a Pair of Jeans, Recycling Clothes, Sports and Games, Jewellery and Decorations and Technology and the Future.

Exploring this book together

What did you learn from this book? Which topic did you find most interesting? 

Curate a small collection of your clothes, shoes and accessories. What have you chosen, and why?

From observation, draw your items carefully.

Use your drawings to create a new double spread for this book. Decide where each image will go, then complete your layout with interesting and informative text. 

Suggested age range 5-10 years 


You Must Bring a Hat written by Simon Philip and illustrated by Kate Hindley, published by Simon and Schuster 

Your friend Nigel has invited you to the biggest, bestest, hattiest party of all time, and you can bring guests. It doesn’t matter how many, but you MUST bring a hat…. 

Cue panic and a search. You find a hat, but its owner – a monkey - won’t lend it. He will, however, accompany you to the party. But you have a hat, right? Even if it is still attached to a monkey….

Needless to say, nothing in this wonderfully deadpan story goes to plan. The doorman won’t admit hat-wearing monkeys unless they’re also wearing monocles, so the search continues. Soon you’ve acquired a string of additional guests, but the doorman is still finding rules to bar your entry. 

“THESE ARE THE SILLIEST RULES I’VE EVER HEARD,” you shout, at last. “NIGEL CLEARLY STATED ON HIS INVITATION…” And that’s when you discover you’ve been trying to gain access to Felicity’s party. Nigel’s is next door….

Kate Hindley’s economic lines and gentle visual jokes are the perfect foil for Simon Philip’s entertaining (and ever-so-slightly eccentric) text. Great fun!

Exploring this book together

Create a dressing up box and use it to create some splendid outfits for Nigel’s party. Can you draw each guest wearing one of your creations?

List the rules cited by the doorman, and draw the ‘chain of guests’ that is formed as a result. Invent some new rules, and draw the additional guests that join the chain as a result.

Can you think of real-world rules that relate to items of clothing? What must you wear to be allowed into a council-run swimming pool, or play football with your local team? Does your school have a uniform? What happens if you break the rules?

Suggested age range: 3-7 years

The Hundred Dresses written by Eleanor Estes and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 

Every day without fail, Wanda Petronski wears the same blue faded dress to school. She says she has a hundred beautiful dresses at home, “all lined up,” but the other girls don’t believe her. When Peggy starts a ‘game’ of teasing Wanda, everyone joins in, including Peggy’s best friend Maddie, but it doesn’t feel right. 

Maddie knows she ought to say something, but nothing changes until the day the results of the class drawing competition are announced. Wanda’s entry has taken first prize, but she is nowhere to be seen. She has left the school, and nobody knows how to find her. Maddie feels terrible – and when she sees Wanda’s artwork, she feels even worse. A hundred beautiful drawings of a hundred different dresses are pinned to the classroom wall, and Wanda has left special gifts for Maddie and Peggy.

Although this US classic was first published in 1944, it is as relevant today as it has ever been, and young readers respond to the realistic dilemmas it depicts. Deciding what is right and acting accordingly has always been difficult, and this book doesn’t sugar-coat the experience. That said, it

isn’t a heavy-duty read, and there is kindness, generosity and hope to be found within its pages – along with some fabulous Forties fashions drawn by Caldecott Medallist Louis Slobodkin.

Exploring this book together

Does Peggy mean to be unkind? Why doesn’t Maddie speak up? Do you think this book has a happy ending?

Look at the work of modern fashion designers and compare with dress designs from the 1940’s. What changes? What stays the same? Which outfit do you like best, and why?

Can you design some new outfits, Wanda-style? Could you design a hundred? Find different ways of displaying your drawings: in blocks of ten? In one long line?

Suggested age range: 8-11 years

Millie’s Marvellous Hat written and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura, published by Andersen Press

Hats can be fabulous, but there’s nothing as amazing as your own imagination!

Millie wants to buy an AMAZING hat, but the one she chooses is far too expensive. Luckily, the shopkeeper has another that will fit the bill – an imaginary hat that adapts itself to Millie’s  surroundings in a most remarkable way. Outside the bakery, Millie’s hat becomes a towering stack of cakes. Walking through the park, it turns into a fountain. But the most amazing thing of all is the discovery that everyone’s wearing a Marvellous Hat  - if only you have the eyes and heart to see it. 

Classic Kitamura illustrations blend the fantastical and the realistic in this light-touch (but deeply thoughtful) fable about the power of imagination, intuition and way we connect with others. 

Exploring this book together

How does Millie get the ideas for her hats? Which did you like best, and why? 

Describe the hat you’re wearing today. Can you draw or paint it? What inspired this hat?

Imagine a hat, then play a ‘Yes and No’ game while everyone tries to guess what it’s like.

Suggested age range: 4-9 years

The Twelve Dancing Princesses written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, published by Puffin 

Dancing shoes  - and dresses - feature in the traditional story about secret adventures and girl-power. In this version, the tale is set in Africa

Twelve princesses sleep in a locked room, but every morning their slippers are worn through, as though they had been dancing all night. The king makes it known that anyone who can solve the mystery may take a princess as his wife. But if he fails, he will lose everything. Drawing on age-old tropes to protect him from enchantments, a soldier volunteers for the task and is able to witness the princesses dressing in their finery and escaping via a hidden passage to a lake… 

Rachel Isadora sets her retelling of this traditional story from the Brothers Grimm in Africa, and every page dances with African colours and patterns. Like many folktales, there is a power to this story that gives it wide appeal.

Exploring this book together

Explore the colours and patterns of traditional fabrics from different parts of Africa. Draw them from observation.

Create a ‘pattern element’ from your observational drawings , then use foamboard, lino, a cut potato or similar to print your pattern element onto paper.  Cut your decorated papers into shapes, like Isadora, and use to create a collage of one of the dancers in this story.

Put on your finery and dance the night away to some traditional African music! 

Suggested age range: 4 -8 years

Be More Bernard written by Simon Philip and illustrated by Kate Hindley, published by Simon and Schuster 

Can choosing and wearing an outfit help us find out who we are? 

Bernard is a rabbit. Just like the other rabbits, he bounces, digs and hops. But unlike them, Bernard never dreams about carrots. His dreams are more – unusual. As we can see in the thought-bubble hovering above his head, Bernard is dreaming of something round and shiny. Could it possibly be… a glitter ball?

This gently eccentric story about Bernard’s journey from a life of conformity to one of self-expression is absurdly satisfying: there’s nothing quite like seeing a rabbit dressed for a Bunny Ball in disco cape and rollerblades. But there’s plenty to fuel a bit of cheerful pondering alongside the silliness and visual jokes  – and when the other rabbits start sharing their dreams, too, it’s quite a moment.

Kate Hindley’s precise, expressive artwork brings this story into focus, and Bernard’s disco outfit is sure to inspire some copycat moves. Check out the penultimate spread for more themed outfits!

Exploring this book together

Does Bernard have to dress in a disco outfit to express himself? Could he have danced without it? Which items of clothing or outfits do you really love, and why? How do they make you feel? 

Fill a box with ‘disco’ gear (such as scarves, offcuts of shiny fabric, colourful accessories and other props) then dig in and get yourself ready for Bertie and Brenda’s (Disco) Bunny Ball!

Suggested age range: 3-6 years

Cinderella of the Nile written by Beverley Naidoo and illustrated by Marjan Vafeian, published by Tiny Owl 

A lost slipper is central to the earliest known version of Cinderella. But in this story, which dates back at least 2,000 years, the slipper is red, the prince is a Pharaoh, and the heroine is a slave who was stolen from her home. How do stories travel and change? And who is telling them? 

Carried away as a slave from her home in northern Greece, red-haired Rhodopis is sold to a rich man on the isle of Samos, where she meets a storyteller, Aesop. He teaches her how to “bend in the wind, like a reed, and not break like the oak”, and when Rhodopis is sold again, this time to an old Egyptian man, she is able to stay cheerful, even though his servant girls are making fun of her. 

Resilience earns Rhodopis a reward from her new owner – a pair of red, embroidered slippers. Rhodopis guards them carefully, but one of them is stolen and taken to Pharaoh. And that’s when the familiar search begins…

Beverley Naidoo’s absorbing retelling gives us a vivid glimpse of life in the Ancient Mediterranean, when girls could be snatched from their mountain homes by pirates and sold across the sea. Marjan Vafeian’s intricate illustrations draw on Iranian, Indian and Egyptian traditions to take us somewhere that feels both ancient and contemporary, and bring a decorative vitality to every spread. 

Exploring this book together

How does this version of Cinderella differ from the one you know best? In what ways is it similar?

Read some of the fables told by Aesop. Can you invent a fable about a pair of beautiful red slippers?

Sew a pair of slippers from red felt and embroider them, like the ones in this book. Or glue and paint a cardboard pair that fit your feet, and model them for a photo.

Suggested age range: 5-10 years

The King With Dirty Feet written by Sally Pomme Clayton and illustrated by Rhiannon Sanderson, published Otter-Barry Books

Why do we need shoes? In this confident retelling of an old ‘pourquoi story’ we discover their origin

Long ago in India there was a king who hated washing SO MUCH that he demanded the land be rid of dirt. But how do you sweep away the dust without making more dust? If you try to wash it away, you risk creating a flood. In the end, the king’s subjects make an enormous patchwork cloth that covers the land. But how will the people feed themselves, now that nothing can grow?

Luckily, an old man has the answer. He cuts a little piece of the cloth and stitches it around the king’s feet. Amazing! Could these be… shoes?

Sally Pomme Clayton’s retelling of this folktale from India and Bangladesh is absorbing and satisfying, and Rhiannon Sanderson cheerful, richly-textured artwork draws on traditional colours and patterns to set the scene.

Exploring this book together

Think of other items of clothing and accessories: coats, hats, umbrellas, vests… What problems did people solve by inventing them? What would life be like without them? Make up a story to explain how one of these items was invented

Using cloth, paper, card and other materials, can you design and make a pair of shoes? You can decide whether they are ‘for real’ or just for show!

Suggested age range: 3 - 7 years

The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant, illustrated by Paola Escobar, Puffin

A swashbuckling fantasy that gives ‘workwear’ a new meaning… 

Set in an alternate eighteenth-century London, this wildly inventive story of shipwreck, ancient rivalries, courtly intrigue and magic will fire imaginations and gain a devoted audience.   

Cordelia is the youngest Hatmaker, one of the ancient families that weave enchantment into the magical accessories they create. From boots, hats and canes to cloaks, watches and gloves, everything fashioned by the Makers uses rare and wonderful ingredients, and these items have been supplied to Kings and Queens for centuries. And so, when the Princess embarks upon treaty negotiations with the French, it’s natural for the Palace to order a full set of Peace Regalia to support the diplomatic process. 

Problems start when someone raids the Menacing Cabinet, and garments are made from the forbidden ingredients it contains. Peace Treaties are difficult to sign when you’re wearing Rage Boots - which is just what their maker wants. How will Cordelia save the day?

As this warm-hearted story dances its way from one improbable and deeply satisfying event to the next, old rivalries emerge, danger stalks the city streets and there are surprises around every corner.  

Exploring this book together

As Tamzin Merchant explains in the video below, “what makes the hat magical are the ingredients you weave into it.” To help readers, there’s a handy glossary at the back of the book, together with space for new ingredients to be added. Can you design (and make?) a hat using some of these ingredients? What benefits would your hat give its wearer?

Collect dressing-up clothes and accessories. Imagine they’ve been made by the Making Families in Cordelia’s world. What special properties does each item possess? How will they help the wearer? 

Write and illustrate a catalogue depicting and naming each item, and listing its abilities. Tie an identification label to each item. Mix and match outfits for different purposes, then roleplay the effect of each outfit on its wearer.

Suggested age range: 8-11 years


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