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The Village of Many Hats


Book Reviews

Two Lesson Plans

Q&A with Caroline & Alison Acheson from WritersWebWorkshop

Oolichan Books

The Village of Many HatsThe Village of Many Hats • 2012
ISBN 978-0-88982-284-9 • Oolichan Books
Available In Fine Canadian
Bookstores for $9.95

It takes a village to raise a child and to care for families in crisis. In The Village of Many Hats Caroline Woodward also shows it takes a child and a wise hat-maker, to save a village. Young Gina struggles with her sister’s illness and a tragedy within her village that ultimately brings her community together.

For more on the story and six excerpts from this book, please visit:

The Village of Many Hats is dedicated to the good citizens of all ages in New Denver and Silverton and will be officially launched on Saturday, May 26th, 3:30-5 p.m., in New Denver's historic Bosun Hall. Free admission. All ages welcome!

The story behind this book:

Caroline with one of her many hats.The Village of Many Hats is is a novella for 7-10 year olds which is told from the point of view of a nine year old character, Gina. She and her family live in Silverado, a mountain village which used to be prosperous but which has now fallen on hard economic times. Silverado is more than just the name brand of a truck! For me, it combines one of the early names for present-day New Denver, El Dorado, and Silverton, another lovely village on the shores of Slocan Lake, only five kilometres to the south of New Denver.

I began this story early in the morning on January 1, 1999 with the urge to create a lovely picture book but as the drafts and the years went by, I realized that I wanted to incorporate too many things that were, supposedly, beyond the comprehension of little picture book readers, things like unemployment and how that stressful fact affects families, helpful adults and how they step up to support families and children going through tough times, life-threatening illness and how difficult it is for people who live far away from major medical centres to get timely, excellent care, and how smart and aware kids can be encouraged by smart and aware adults to take a meaningful role and make a difference in their own community.

I remain inspired by the work of so many talented and generous community organizers and artists I've met, collaborated with and still sing the praises of in The Village of Many Hats. I lived for eighteen years in the Kootenays: on the lovely north shore of Kootenay Lake, attending the visionary, late, still-lamented David Thompson University Centre in Nelson, in rural Winlaw for some of the years I worked in various capacities at the brilliant, late and much-lamented Polestar Press with Julian Ross and Ruth Porter, and finally, with my partner, Jeff George, opening and running the Motherlode Bookstore in New Denver for eight of those eighteen years. Theatre, music, festivals, summer schools of the arts, authors on tour, writing workshops, galleries, bookstore launches, collaborating with others to create magical events with shoestring budgets but fantastically talented people--- all these richly creative experiences I've enjoyed doing are thanks to the wealth of creative people living and touring in the Kootenays. I haven't even begun to pay homage to the abandoned railway tracks, the glorious hot springs, the cold, clean lakes and river swimming holes, the plentiful mountain ranges with acres of wild flowers on their slopes for six weeks and fantastic skiing the rest of the year... Did I say that I intend to live in the Kootenays again? Well, I do!

One important thing about the book and the excerpts which will be posted: five brave souls responded to my fundraising challenge to support the New Denver Reading Centre which had 100% of its provincial government funding cut. Mayor Gary Wright (now retired and writing his own books) auctioned off these roles and a rare copy of one of my books with resounding success and raised over $900 for the Centre. However, this is a work of fiction and these 'real' names are used in an entirely fictitious manner: Heather Fox, Dr. Jamie Barber, Judi Gardiner, Wendy Harlock, and Francie Oldham. Bless them all and I look forward to presenting them with a book in front of a cheering audience in the Bosun Hall in New Denver in May 2012 (May 26th, 2-4 p.m). The muse for Madame D'Oiseaux is the multi-talented milliner and fabric artist, Rosalie Bird, who still lives in New Denver.

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Reviews by the People That Really Matter: Grade 3 Kids!

Emmett:  I liked how she showed us the stories she wrote.
Olivier:  I liked that she had so many hats.
Sam:  I liked the books.  I liked all the titles
Hunter:  I Like how she made the books; they were really epic
Grace:  My favorite part was that Caroline was enthusiastic and nice.  She wasn't grumpy; she was happy

Village of Many hats 'heartfelt story'

By Paula Wild - Comox Valley Record
Published: December 04, 2012

Gina’s little sister is very sick. Gina does the best she can to make her laugh and cheer her up. 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 Silverado, 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 tough since the silver mine closed and now the old community hall is threatened. When a big meeting is 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 pages 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.

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The Village of Many Hats – CM Magazine, Sept 21, 2012
Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11. Review by Saeyong Kim. ***½ /4

Gina takes a part-time job at the newly-opened gift shop of Madame D'Oiseaux whose specialty is making beautiful hats from fabrics and buttons selected and matched according to the characters of their previous owners. Gina learns to design and sew hats as well, and she makes a special hat for her sister, Sara, who is in a hospital in Vancouver awaiting heart surgery. Meanwhile, Silverado, where Gina lives, is a dwindling former mining community. With the silver mines shut down and families leaving for lack of work, the people of Silverado must come together and decide how to revitalize the village and, further, to determine what kind of neighbourhood they wish to live in when the community hall is damaged by fire and the village lacks the funds necessary for the repairs.

      The Village of Many Hats skilfully shows how the community we live in is intertwined with our lives: Gina's family is supported in many ways by the neighbours who bring food and company over, look after the cat, set up a collection to support travel to Vancouver, and donate plane tickets. Gina makes use of the school library and computers to record herself reading books for Sara, to send emails and chat live using a webcam. On the other hand, as Silverado dwindles, Gina's after-school activities have been cancelled due to lack of both participants and adult volunteers, her best friend has had to move away because her family needs work elsewhere, and the richest resident (who also anonymously donated the plane tickets to Vancouver) is attempting to demolish the community hall and set up a plastic fireplace log factory on the grounds.

      The great variety of subjects touched on in this slim book of just over a hundred pages makes it engaging for a broad readership as well. Community involvement, the importance of the human element (or the personal touch) in everything we make and do, the impact a serious illness can have on all members of the patient's family, an example of the democratic decision-making process on a small scale, and the wise use of available technology are all described, while the story, itself, that Gina makes a special hat for her sister to give her courage and hope before an important surgery, is poignant. The emotions of Gina, who is under stress to be both a brave sister for Sara and a responsible child for her parents in a time of crisis, are dealt with subtly, interspersed realistically with her new interest in and enthusiasm for design and sewing, her love for her village, and her growing friendship with Madame D'Oiseaux. A satisfying read, and good material for discussion.

Highly Recommended.

Saeyong Kim is studying for a Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia, BC.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

The Village of Many Hats Review – Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This, July 5, 2012

I wanted to read Caroline Woodward’s middle-grade novel The Village of Many Hats because I loved her picture book Singing Away the Dark, and I was curious as to see how her talent would translate. So I was pleased to find that everything I loved about Singing Away… was present here in this story of a small community surrounded by nature in the Kootenays, whose spirit refuses to be permeated by economic hardship, a novel whose heart is a young girl who knows that bravery is not the absence of fear, but instead fear harnessed.

While Gina’s young sister Sara awaits heart surgery at the children’s hospital in Vancouver, Gina tries to keep things together at home and be strong in support of her family. She finds distraction in a part-time job working in a new shop in town whose proprietor is the creator of stunning hats made of recycled materials, which seem to bring strength to their wearers. And when tragedy strikes and the village Hall is damaged in a fire, the residents of Silverado need their hats more than ever.

Woodward has written about the book’s inspiration, and how it also served as a fundraiser for the Reading Centre in New Denver BC. I’m not sure a book itself has ever been able to practice what it preaches, but this one did, underlining my appreciation for this lovely and affirming story of community togetherness.

The Village of Many Hats
(By Caroline Woodward. Oolichan)

Sometimes the story behind a novel is as good as the one it tells. While writing this magic-infused tale of a girl coping with her younger sister’s serious illness, Caroline Woodward (author of the acclaimed Singing Away the Dark) discovered that all of the provincial funding for the volunteer-run reading centre in her hometown of New Denver, B.C., had been slashed. So to raise money for the centre, Woodward auctioned off the names of five characters in the book. To top it off, she’s donating a portion of the royalties to B.C. Children’s Hospital, in honour of the sick little girl at the heart of this drama for readers seven to 10 years old.

Brian Lynch, The Georgia Straight

Lesson Plans for The Village of Many Hats

Lesson Plan 1 - Have a Hat Day

Have a 'hat' day, as in wearing a new spring hat just for the fun and fashion of it, or even organizing a hat unit for language arts/social studies. If the teachers can incorporate a fun spring hat day for the day I come to their library or classroom, that’s just fine.

If teachers can expand this activity to having their students research where their hat was made, who made it, where the materials came from, where they are they sold, who gets paid what at every step and so forth, that would be even better. The hat can be an old family hat from Grandpa or Grandma or a new ball cap to show support for your favourite team or local organization or tribal affiliation. It can be a rain hat, cowboy hat or a Three Musketeers hat. Hats in history, hats in fashion, hats because they are necessary to protect our noggins from the sun, or falling objects, like a hard hat; research is the fun part! Hats were, and perhaps still are, used to denote status or workplace identity. In theatre costume work for the stage or film, think about how quickly we can identify a character even if we’re sitting in the back row of the audience with the use of one hat, say, a black beret. We quickly run through the possibilities: "French, artist, IRA, Che" if we are adults of a certain age. The sight of a deerstalker hat makes many of us think of Sherlock Holmes. A highly stylized, slightly ridiculous woman’s hat perched at an extreme angle will make most of us think of the socialites and fashionistas attending Kate and Prince William’s wedding in 2011. It used to keep hat-makers, or milliners as they were known, in business because in a Western, church-going society, everyone had to have a new hat for Easter services. Nowadays, if we see anyone on stage with a ball cap on backwards, we will expect them to break out a dance routine with gravity-defying athletic moves. Hats set up many kinds of expectations.

I'll be bringing four or five hats to the readings for a little ice-breaker show and tell too and explaining that my Welsh grandmother was a milliner's apprentice. I’ll also explain that a friend in New Denver inspired me to write The Village of Many Hats with a wise hat-maker as one of the main characters because she made simply wonderful hats out of recycled clothing.

After reading The Village of Many Hats, consider your own hat project, incorporating the virtues on Madame's sampler:
Patience Diligence Kindness
Fairness Courage Gratitude
Cheerfulness Tolerance.
What other character virtues would you find useful if you had to (a) climb a mountain to escape a natural disaster (b) stop someone from bullying a friend or (c) look after a pet who is sick or injured? List the virtues you think you need most at this point in your life and then design a cool hat for yourself, a hat which Madame D'Oiseaux would have made especially for you once she got to know you.

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Lesson Plan 2 - How To Make a Fabulous Hat

  1. Read The Village of Many Hats by Caroline Woodward (Published by Oolichan Books) for inspiration.
  2. Bring lots of fabrics, feathers, buttons and bows for you and your friends to choose from. You will also need a glue stick, scissors and pencil crayons.
  3. Use a large piece of white paper on which the outline of a human head and shoulders has been drawn. It helps to have enough of these pages photocopied and all ready for you before you start.
  4. Think of the size and shape of your hat and lightly outline your design with a pencil crayon OR just use your scissors to cut interesting shapes from the fabrics you like and play around with them until you are happy with your shapes and colours.
  5. Glue the fabrics to the paper and add feathers or buttons or sequins or strips of leather, whatever you have on hand that appeals to you.
  6. Now use pencil crayons to make a face. Add earrings or a bow tie, a necklace or a scarf, using the materials you have. Have fun!
  7. This exercise was inspired by four Grade Three classes at Kanaka Creek Elementary School in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, with sincere thanks to a great bunch of creative kids, enthusiastic teachers and a quilt-making librarian! Check out their hats!
Maple Ridge students and their hats.
The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures
The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures The Village of Many Hats lesson plan pictures

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From the July, 2012 Newsletter

Q - Alison: There’s a real sense of a gentler world in your story—The Village of Many Hats! And all the possibilities around that! It’s a tough thing, I believe, to market such a story. (I’ve come to dread the word “quiet” myself!) But I’ve looked at a number of your book tour photos, and you are having fun, and folks are enjoying. What do you think is key to marketing work that isn’t “dystopian,” “raw,” or “gritty?”

A - Caroline: Firstly, I have to write about what is truly important to me, not the market or what is temporarily trendy in adult or children’s literature. But I write so slowly to begin with (The Vi!age of Many Hats began on January 1, 1999, ostensibly as a picture book) that I have to be ‘hooked’ by the depth of the material, its meaningfulness to me, in order to keep revising it for many years. Any hot trends would be long-gone by the time any of my books emerged! As a former bookseller and publishers’ sales rep, I often prevailed upon our son to read a certain book or galleys and to give me his honest opinion. “Mom,” he groaned more than once. “I don’t like to read about other kids’ problems all the time.” Bingo. If the ‘problems’ are Harry Potter’s, however, bring them on! I also watched the faces of booksellers and librarians as I presented book after book as inventively as I could muster as a sales rep but the eye-rolling became pronounced and sighs audible after a litany of worthy “problem” books replete with bulimia, cutting, abusive or incompetent adults, rude, hostile narrators, bullying, racism, et al, ad nauseum.

For me, the plight and the pluck of Joanna Spyri’s classic orphan, Heidi, were utterly gripping. I reread it many times as a child. The drudgery and danger faced by the children in The Crow - Girl trilogy, written by the contemporary Danish writer, Bodil Bredsdorrf, gives me a shining example of what to aspire to now as a writer of children’s books. I’m going for the following substitutes for the dreaded word “quiet” invoked by editors or sales reps or booksellers, which is code for no farting noises, deranged predators or broad strokes dialogue conducted at the psychic equivalent of 104 decibels.

I’m going for classic and enduring, stories with depth, stories with heart and art and soul, stories which show the reality of communities and neighbourhoods where people still do look out for each other, where different age groups interact much more meaningfully and aren’t ghettoized into ‘old’ and ‘young’ factions where each fears the other at many levels and also, where respect and competence is nurtured and responsibility is expected. An administrator with the Boys & Girls Club in Calgary wrote me to say she found my book ‘empowering for children and a wonderful evocation of community life.’ Librarians and teachers have said they love the Virtues and how the eccentric village characters, even the villain, are lovingly portrayed. So if I was marketing a book like mine, I’d say the book presents a place in the western mountains where the past and the present mingle, a place worth visiting because you’ll be welcomed, a place where there are real problems but where good people will help you get through the tough times. Or as one of the sales reps for this book told me, a book which gives readers a sense of community and connection they may not know in their own lives but which is wonderful to read about, to know such a thing exists.

When I give presentations, my theatre background kicks in and I love to make a “book reading” entertaining, to find ways for everyone to participate. So I bring a little collection of my hats as props, have contests for wacky hats; organize auctions for character roles, sponsoring odes to garlic and the like. I’ve always loved organizing art-based community events ever since I was a child and anywhere I’ve lived. It’s my way, as with this book, of saying to people: I think you’re wonderful, thank you, here’s my gift for you!

Q - Alison: You live in a very isolated place and work as a lighthouse keeper. How does that play into your writing life?

A - Caroline: It is wonderful, beyond wonderful to have this opportunity. I finally have the time and the focus to write. Shift work is perfect especially since I work the late shift 90% of the time and as a lifelong insomniac, it is so important to me to have quality hours in which to write as well as do any paid or unpaid work on the stations I’m assigned to. And as much as I love being a social butterfly and being very involved in community life, it is terrific to NOT serve on boards and committees or do good works after decades of doing my bit. I finally understand that contributing my books to the world is my “good work” and that I should honour that and not feel guilty about not doing all the things in this world that need doing. Call me a child of the idealistic era in this country but I’ve laboured under this onerous shroud/bushel for years.

I have so many projects on my back burner from the many years I couldn’t write due to raising a family and non-stop work and volunteerism, and frankly, not having enough money to buy myself guilt-free time to write, that I am grateful for every day that I’m a relief lightkeeper, which is like being a substitute teacher. The wilderness, the sheer physicality of the ocean and the islands and outcrops where lighthouses are placed, the wild land and sea animals and the plants all feed my mind and again, give me a sense of timelessness and depth that I need and crave as a writer who is too easily distracted by clutter and other demands on my time. The occasional life and death reality of the job keeps it real, as well. We are like lifeguards, keeping watch, monitoring the radios, tidying up the work station, but then bad stuff happens, boats get swamped, planes crash, hikers are injured, you name it, and then we handle communications, get physical aid out to people if possible, and link the search and rescue people with the people in big trouble if need be. The environment informs my writing, my Japanese form poems, the teen novel I’m working on now, my peace of mind, everything. I count my blessings daily. I also have a prolific email connection to other writers and my voracious reading habit continues, thanks to Vancouver Island Regional Library’s remote customer service to the lightstations. So I don’t feel isolated. I have the excellent company of my husband and our dog and books and writing projects, good music, CBC and Longbeach Radio, phone contact and the internet. I do miss not being able to sing in choirs or swim laps in a pool but now I sing to the birds and the plants, work out in our “gym” and sea kayak, my favourite thing, as often as possible.

Q - Alison: What was your biggest challenge in writing and completing The Village of Many Hats? What surprised you most about the process?

A - Caroline: The biggest challenge was getting the tone right—a mysterious alchemy that tone business— and getting clear with myself as to what the real story was, which I struggled with for years and which good readers told me was an issue. Is the story about a sister and her very ill sister (see: other kid’s problems/agony aunt stories) who just happened to live in a magical sort of mountain village or was it about a hat-maker and a little girl who was her apprentice or what, exactly? Well, I wanted it all. I wanted the reality of tense parents, unemployment, friends moving away, of villages verging on becoming ghost towns, of amazingly talented artists like Madame D’Oiseaux, who live in towns and villages in relative obscurity.

I wanted to say what I know about collective wisdom, about listening to many different voices to come to a decision, young and old and in between wisdom and insights, personified by hats, the well-worn materials going into each hat and upon each willing head.

I know this community/political stuff deeply; I’ve lived it, grew up with it, taught it to our son by discussion and the example of his parents’ involvement in community decision-making and celebration, too. I didn’t want a simplified, predictable storyline where precocious children are cocooned from all sorts of social and economic realities. So a lot of hard thinking and writing, setting it aside, rewriting, all of that slogging hard work we writers do, went on for years. Then I found a publisher in Oolichan Books who ‘got’ it. Maybe because the publisher is based in the Rocky Mountains in Fernie, a small town with a revitalized, vibrant community life, and my novel for adults with them, Penny Loves Wade, Wade Loves Penny (2010) did quite well, but that acceptance gave me the confidence to dig deep, work like blazes and to write the best book I could muster out of myself. I insisted on an experienced children’s editor though, because I knew I needed one and I had not written for the 8-10 year old age group before (the plays and songs I wrote for my friends to perform when I was that age do not count!) and I needed the expert outside eye to feel confident enough to make that final push. Thankfully, I got Alison Acheson! Thank you, I am forever grateful!

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