Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Hat for Hannah: The Story Behind The Story

A Hat for Hannah
Written by: Mariam D. Pineno Illustrated by: Martha Pineno-Hess

Pizzazz? Or pizazz? According to Webster’s D. you can have it either way. But if you were a second grade reader sounding out, wouldn’t your mouth stop and drool at pizza without bothering to finish the word? That’s how I decided which version to use.
“Hannah needs a hat. A hat with pizazz. She needs it for next Friday.” So the unique post card size book opens. For a week, Hannah bugs everyone in sight about hats. Perseverance pays. But I’m getting ahead of my story.

I saw the hot pink hat—sunflower-backed—among second grade kids invading my daughter Beth’s music room. Some more outlandish than others from theme-land headgear to authentic sombreros. I happened to be visiting on Hat Day when Emily’s pizazzy hat and lively style caught my eye. In turning my observation into a story, I imagined a variety of hat styles from everyday life and when I found them, I needed models.

My illustrator/daughter Marti wanted visuals so I/we shot five fat rolls of film of everything from porches, screen doors, school entrances, railings, family members, and even me—the grandma watering her flowers. For me, the book’s most poignant page was based on a photo of my dad in his jaunty French beret, sitting at a sidewalk cafĂ© in Paris. Ever the avid reader, wouldn’t he be pleased with his role in illustrating a modern child’s book?

Mentor/editor/friend Joy Cowley had brief input into this book, too, and no surprise, her contribution again was about choosing from while deleting “darlings.” In my enthusiasm, I had developed more hat scenes than appropriate to include. Not bad ideas—just too many. Another exercise in writer’s choices. I’m still learning.

Thanks for reading my story,

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