But all too often it feels like Sara’s the perfect sleeping beauty while Gina’s the thoughtless noisy one. It’s enough to make a nine-year-old yell and cry.
But Gina does neither.
Instead, she serves as Sara’s eyes on the street and even gets a part-time job to help out. That’s where she meets Madame D’Oiseaux and learns the mysterious power of hats.
The Village of Many Hats, a new release by Oolichan Books, is a charming heartfelt story of a young girl struggling to do what’s right despite the challenges her family and the small community she lives in face.
Through a wise milliner, Gina learns that virtues like patience, kindness and courage can be found in silk, wool and other fabrics people have worn close to their skin. And that a hat, coat or treasure bag made from these recycled pieces of cloth can create a good luck charm for their new owners.
When Sara goes to Vancouver for heart surgery, Gina learns how to use the school computer so she can read her sister stories via a webcam every day.
And she in turn listens to the stories Madame tells about the people who wore the old dresses, robes and scarves that she is cutting up to make hats. Over time, Gina begins to understand what makes a good hat and, perhaps more importantly, what makes a good person.
The story takes place in the village of Silverton, a community described as having 525 people, several churches, a main street three blocks long and about 100 dogs and cats.
It’s the only home Gina’s known but times are touch since the silver mine closed and now the old community hall is threatened. When a big meeting’s called to decide the fate of the heritage building, Gina combines modern technology and the comforting feel of some of Madame D’Oiseaux’s fabric to sway the crowd.
The Village of Many Hats is a multi-generational story of family and neighbours dealing with hardship and pulling together. It’s about being young, confused and scared. And doing the best you can anyway.
Caroline Woodward, an award-winning author of five books for adults and two for children, began The Village of Many Hats on Jan. 1, 1999.
But as time passed and the words accumulated, she realized she couldn’t fit a community crisis, unemployment and the challenges of obtaining medical care from an isolated community into a picture book. And so the feisty and earnest Gina was created to inhabit a novel for seven- to 10-year-olds.
A former Comox Valley resident, Woodward now lives, writes and works as a relief lighthouse keeper on Lennard Island on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. A portion of her author royalties for this book are being donated to B.C. Children’s Hospital.
The Village of Many Hats, 116 pgs. with small sketches at the beginning of each chapter, retails for $9.95.
Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record's arts and entertainment section.