This book, though long a favorite of my mother's, never really spoke to me as other Seuss works do. I'm not really sure why except perhaps that I always wanted the "magical" hat situation explained, even as a child.
Bartholomew Cubbins, who the book sets up as the complete opposite of the King with a wonderful contrast of their views, travels to town to sell some cranberries when the King's carriage thunders down a street. Like everyone else, he bows and sweeps the hat from his head. Unlike everyone else, something unusual happens and he finds himself with hat in hand and hat on head! And we've only got started.
In some ways, this is a scary book. The King is enraged that he's shown respect - in his eyes - and as more and more hats appear, Cubbins is even condemned to death by beheading! This is a children's book and though nothing comes of it, I remember being very frightened for him. I also got mad that he just walked down on his own and delivered his own death sentence! The king's nephew is beyond a brat and frankly, I cheer every time he gets spanked. He was looking forward to pushing Bartholomew off the ledge. The way he acted throughout the book he deserved worse and I thought even as a young child that he was unlikely to change. The King showed more compassion (small though it was) and he was giving the order!
But what aggravates me the most is the non-explanation of the 500 Hats. All the grown ups shrugged and said it "happened to happen and not likely to happen again." Well that was completely unsatisfying. Yet, maybe there is wisdom there. Maybe there are things we can't explain; we should try but perhaps there is wisdom in knowing when to appreciate and not dissect. I don't know; reading the book this time got me thinking some really odd things.
For all that I gripe, I do enjoy this story and like returning to the Kingdom of Didd. It won't, however, make it into my top ten Dr. Seuss books.