Prather's Pick: A wild west tale with a twist

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This week's picture book is different because its story is expanded by some newspaper clippings found within the design of the book's front and back inside covers. "Don't Touch My Hat!" written and illustrated by James Rumford, is a wild west tale with a twist.

The town's setting is Sunshine, a town that's way, way out in the middle of the prairie. In fact, about all that's around the town is prairie grass.

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Sunshine isn't much different than the other towns, except that it's "civ'lized," and that's due to the work of Sheriff John and his bullet-riddled 10-gallon hat.

Sheriff John is a tall, striking man with a great big smile. (You'd never guess that the top of his head is bald -- not that it matters to this story.) Sheriff John appears to be quite self-confident, and he is as long as he wears his 10-gallon hat.

Sheriff John believes that as long as he wears his hat he can do anything. He can round up rustlers, rescue ladies in distress, and lasso a bunch of bank robbers, train robbers, stagecoach robbers, and most any other kind of robbers.

Evidence of all of the good deeds done by the sheriff can be found in one of the clippings from the "Daily Sunshine" (dated Aug. 13). But the sheriff insists everything he's done is due to his hat.

So Sunshine's hero is mighty protective of that ten-gallon hat, no matter whether he's at the barbershop or taking his Saturday night bath. Even Sheriff John's wife Lil isn't allowed to touch his hat.

But Lil, who, according to another clipping, married John in the Sunshine Chapel on Aug. 4, understands because she has plenty of hats of her own. She owns red hats, velvet hats, hats with feathers, and lots of others -- some from Paris.

And then Lil comes home wearing the fanciest hat of all. It's a yellow straw with flowers all around and yellow birds waving away at the very top.

That night Lil's new hat and John's 10-gallon hat are side by side on the dresser when the couple turns out the light.

It's been a peaceful night so far, but just about the time the light is turned out, things start hopping in town.

Deputy Bob comes to get the sheriff. Rustlers are at the McDermott's ranch, robbers are at the bank, a brawl has started at the saloon, and, as if that's not enough, a range war is "a-brewin'."

Sheriff John doesn't even bother to light the lantern. He just pulls on his pants, jumps into his boots, and puts on his gun. Last, he puts on his hat. And then ... the reader is in for a surprise.

The newspaper clippings on the book's back inside pages let the reader know a lot more about Sheriff John and Lil in later years. There's even a clipping from Hollywood Hoot.

"Don't Touch My Hat!" is a Borzoi Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf (2007). It costs $16.99 in hardcover.

ISBN 978-0-375-83782-1

© Copyright Diane Prather, 2007. All rights reserved.

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