The Queen's Hat by Steve Antony
"The Queen's Hat is an especially jazzy picture book that will brighten up any bookshelf."
Review by Heather Keane
There’s much to be said for a good, solid picture book that does what it says on the tin – one that simply tells a story in pictures. A wide and intricately artistic span of wordless literature exists on one side of the genre’s stretch, opposing those books made up of cleverly contrasting text and images, but the books that fall somewhere in between those types can get left behind. Steve Antony’s stylish debut as a picture book author reminds a reader of the specific joy attached to a story that can rest its plot on its illustrations, with words by no means inane but definitely taking a back seat on this one.
The Queen’s Hat follows the British monarch on a frantic tour around London as she, the Royal Guard, and one Royal Corgi scamper across town after a wind had sent her favourite hat “swish!” right off her head. The chase takes the infinitely expanding batch of the Queen and her Men through Trafalgar Square, into London Zoo, onto the London Underground, all around the London Eye, over Tower Bridge, and up Big Ben until – “swoosh!” – the wind brings it back again.
Antony’s snapshot of the British capital is an almighty ode to London, a tricolour dream that bleeds Briton. One spread packs dozens of the Queen’s Guardsmen into a tube carriage like sardines, yet Antony has snuck in one sneaky soldier who has still remembered to pack his smartphone for the commute – an image that will offer any victim of TFL a chuckle.
That said, I still think the textual labels to go along with these iconic landmarks are not the important part of the book. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never set foot in central London, Antony draws on images that are known worldwide – the colour scheme especially suits the bold outfit of the guards that no reader is likely to mistake. Although the embedded pinpoint locations are a big part of the text, the real fun in the book is down to the absurdity of the illustration; the reality of the novel’s tour is an added bonus.
Antony’s rapidly multiplying stock of guardsmen is properly hilarious. At first glance they seem identical but really involve a wealth of nifty detail close-up, Antony’s illustration has a Where’s Wally-size scope of alike but not the same drawings that are uniquely entertaining. Outlining all of this is a fantastic scarcity and a great use of white space and his restriction adds volume to the chaos of scenes like a London Zoo stampede.
Antony’s technique and the book’s finish give off a kind of colouring pencil sketch of something that’s all happening a bit too fast, but the buildings behind the frenzy give off a very architectural, blue print-based vibe. The Queen’s curls are set against the meticulously ruled out dimensions of Buckingham Palace, as if they would retain some semblance of sensibility in the city. Antony’s commitment to the design of this book is evident and the endpapers in particular are impressive.
The Queen’s Hat is a royal romp through London that will especially flatter a reader who can place themselves in the locale of the text, but the illustration approach means it is not exclusive to a location-specific audience. It’s an especially jazzy picture book that will brighten up any bookshelf.
The Queen's Hat is available to buy online and at your local bookstore.
For more information on Steve Antony and his debut Picturebook go to www.steveantony.com