Have you all read Chris Van Dusen’s Hattie & Hudson yet? It had been on my Amazon wishlist for the girls since it came out, and luckily for us, a year and a half later, my 3 year old got it for her birthday in September! And it didn’t disappoint— she LOVES this book!
Unlike the other books Van Dusen has written and illustrated, Hattie & Hudson is written in prose rather than in rhyme. Hattie & Hudson also has a more serious than imaginative or silly feel to it, which results in a much different reading experience. (Apparently, he originally wrote this in rhyme but decided that the rhyme didn’t match the message he wanted to send). Nevertheless, it has been on repeat in our house since we received it.
Hattie & Hudson tells the tale of an adventurous girl, Hattie, who canoes to the middle of the lake singing an endearing song. Entranced by the song, the lake monster, Hudson, comes up to the surface to hear more closely. The other townspeople on the lake are terrified of the monster. They call a town meeting to make plans to get rid of him— it is up to Hattie to find a way to show everyone how gentle Hudson really is.
Though the illustrations are done in Van Dusen’s characteristic brightly colored gouache paintings, they take a more serious tone here, matching the change in tone of this book. Van Dusen’s messaging in this book is strong. Rather than simply entertaining (his Circus Ship and If I Built a House are two of our very favorite books, and we love his illustrations to the Mercy Watson series!), Hattie & Hudson is more didactic. The messaging of acceptance and standing up for those who are mistreated is very clear, though not overpowering enough to detract from the enjoyment of the story. According to my husband (who would choose those one out of all of our books to read repeatedly…), Hattie & Hudson “inspires the imagination of adults as well as children.”
Appealing illustrations, an adventurous and strong female character, a kind lake monster, and sweet teaching points for children, Hattie & Hudson is winner in our house!