The Hats of Marvello
304pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99
In the small Australian country town of Mount Dry, Olive is preparing for her starring role as a narrator in the Year 5 play. It’s a really big deal for her and she is very excited so she is determined to shine and so she needs the perfect costume. She is delighted when she finds the perfect top hat at the local op shop, but when she gets it home she discovers it has a secret. A talking rabbit called Robbit unexpectedly pops out – and a rabbit is something that Olive has always longed for but can never have because they are considered pests on farms and her grandfather has repeatedly refused her requests.
Olive faces a dilemma – how can she obey her grandfather who is trying to rid the farm of rabbits altogether (and is obliged to by law) and still help Robbit who tells her that 100 of his friends have been kidnapped by the wicked Reynard and need to be rescued? Her hat is one of a magical set that allows the rabbits to travel between hats through time and place and so when they turn up on the farm does she hide and protect them so they can go back to Wilby’s Magic Shop in England or does she tell her grandfather?
As well as being torn between Robbit’s pleas and her grandfather’s beliefs there is also the question of how a magician’s hat turned up in an op shop in rural Australia and so Olive is drawn into a mystery that becomes much more exciting than the school play.
Although this is a book that is based on mystery and magic, it is set against a backdrop of people and places that are very recognisable as they face familiar, real-life problems. Olive has choices to make but there are many elements influencing her options and she has to navigate these while trying to make the right decision to suit everyone.
Short chapters and illustrations make this an intriguing read for independent readers, but one which has some more complex layers that will provoke thought and consideration, and perhaps even further investigation into the impact of introduced animals on the Australian landscape, particularly those species which have become feral.