Before I read The Mitford Series by Jan Karon, I read Miss Fannie’s Hat. I didn’t know as an elementary schooler that Jan Karon would become one of my favorite authors, that her writing style would influence my own, or that her publishing choices would help me come to terms with the Christian Fiction genre. I just knew that I loved the story of the little old woman who gave up her favorite hat for her church. Faith blends seamlessly into this children’s book. Let’s dive into what Jan Karon does so well in Miss Fannie’s Hat.
Characterization in Picture Books
Jan Karon excellently chooses simple grammatical structures that children can easily follow. Yet, within that simple structure, we meet a woman full of wisdom, experience, and faith. Based on the book’s dedication, Karon based the two main characters, Miss Fannie and Miss Wanda, on her grandmother and mother. Thus, all the love and respect Karon held for these women binds the separate details of the book together.
Though the grammar may be simple, the story arc skips through time. Karon specifically depicts her grandmother’s favorite hats and how she would wear them. When Miss Fannie must chose a hat to donate to the church auction, Karon brings Miss Fannie’s conflict to life by connecting each hat to an earlier memory. Miss Fannie isn’t just giving away one of her many hats; Miss Fannie is giving away a link to her past and all the memories she has made over the years. Karon describes Miss Fannie’s feelings so well that everyone can relate to the weight that comes with giving something up.
Faith in Miss Fannie’s Hat
Miss Fannie’s Hat seamlessly blends faith and universal struggles like selfishness because Miss Fannie’s church plays a central role in the story. In fact, in one of the most beautifully subtle analogies ever, Karon connects Miss Fannie’s favorite hat to the church itself. Miss Fannie could donate her favorite hat to the church because she knew the donation would ultimately better the church and extend God’s Kingdom. Thus, Miss Fannie beautifully exemplifies how doing things for the Lord blesses many people. Most importantly, Karon never had to preach to convey that message.
Truly, Jan Karon teaches generosity, respect for others, and the beauty of a relationship with God all in the 32 pages of Miss Fannie’s Hat. Her ability to teach without preaching in her writing strikes me just as it did in The Mitford Series. Plus, Toni Goffe deserves a shoutout for the delightful illustrations. (There’s a whole side story with funny cats that occurs exclusively in the pictures.) I have to say, just as At Home in Mitford ranks as my favorite contemporary fiction novel, Miss Fannie’s Hat may take the number one spot for my favorite picture book.