Standing out in the world, making your mark and putting forward inventive ideas requires courage, grit, creativity, imagination and self-belief which Frank, a penguin, has in spades. Frank’s Red Hat by Sean E Avery explores Frank’s journey full of twists and turns as he tries to come up with his next best idea and the reactions of the other animals he lives with. This picture book can be read on many levels and will serve as an excellent segue into rich discussions as a multitude of themes are explored, including being yourself, having a growth mind set, pursuing goals, diverse ways of being, fear of the unknown, kindness and acceptance.
Frank lives with a colony of penguins (amongst other animals) in Antarctica, with black rocks galore in a snow-covered environment, devoid of any colour. Frank is not a creature of habit, he is a problem solver, bold, inventive and ready to try new ways of doing things. The other penguins are sceptical of Frank’s ways.
Frank, being the individual that he is, decides to knit himself a red (a colour never, ever seen before by any of the animals) hat. Instantly, the penguins are highly suspicious and fearful of this hat, they suspect that it could be dangerous. Frank explains its purpose and assures his fellow penguins that his new creation is safe. However, Neville, the spokespenguin for the group, suffers a terrible fate upon trying on Frank’s red hat. This serves to exacerbate and validate the penguins unfounded and paranoid fears. No considered reflection is had about the incident and no rational conclusion reached that Neville’s fate was not sealed by the red hat.
With the penguins distrust at an all time high they take matters (unbeknownst to them rather carelessly and dangerously) into their own flippers. Not willing to give up, Frank persists with his idea, modifying it and experimenting. The penguins are not having a bar of it.
On the precipice of giving up, lonely and deflated as all the penguins abandon Frank, an unexpected and unlikely visitor arrives and breaks the silence with a question. What happens next ignites Frank’s spirit to continue as he has a newfound purpose and drive, so much so, that a “new” and this time appreciated creation is unveiled.
The lively and atmospheric illustrations, while employing various shades of black, grey and white with vivid pops of colour highlighting Frank’s creations, are created using a combination of digital and scanned paper collage. The expressive characters and vast frosty environment come to dramatic life in the illustrations.
This is a beautiful story about friendship between unlikely characters (animals in this case) and seeing the beauty and positives in something unfamiliar. It highlights the power of a kind word or action and how this can be the impetus for something great and have a ripple effect. This story also serves to show that a failure, or idea not going to plan, can be an opportunity for a completely different idea or opportunity to take hold. This book would make a perfect read aloud as there are different perspectives and themes readers will be able to connect to. There is also a gamut of emotions conveyed in this story which lends itself to reading the book with different voices and expressions, making it a most memorable and engaging experience.