I wanted to start at the beginning of the alphabet. My idea was to read every children's book at the West Des Moines library who's author started with an A. I glanced through a few of the titles that were available and stumbled onto Jon Agee's book Milo's Hat Trick. (no it's not sports related) Again the cover drew me in and I picked it up to take home and read.
The book follows Milo who is a terrible magician. His big shame is his hat trick. He doesn't have a rabbit so he can't pull one out of a hat. Normally he pulls a mouse which just isn't as good. He is constantly booed. So the manager informs Milo that he needs to get a rabbit. He sets off to trap one and manages to catch a bear instead. But the bear can also do the trick. He can fold himself up to fit in the hat and is willing to jump out at a whistle from Milo. They head back to the theater together but on the train Milo's hat gets switched with someone. He is panicked. His bear and hat are gone. The bear in the meantime is jumping out of the hat at the worst possible moment. A hunt is taken to find the bear who still has the hat. He finds his way to the theater to save the day at the last moment. He becomes part of the act. But after hundreds of shows the bear gets tired and Milo must find a new trick. And this one is a wonderful surprise.
The story in this book is clever but the illustrations are really what made it for me. The gawky looking Milo and the silly bear convey emotion easily. Agee uses pencil and watercolor to bring the scenes to life. One of my favorite images is Milo crouched down talking to the bear who is already tucked into the hat. Only his mouth protrudes from the hat. The silliness of the situation and Milo's odd posture (including pants riding up to show white socks) makes for a wonderful scene. The story is fun and we feel for the bear as he tries to get back to the show. Even with the blank eyes that the characters have we can see his fear and desperation. A clever book with fun illustrations.