Courage Hats

by Kate Hoefler (Author) Jessixa Bagley (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

What if the Cowardly Lion took a leap of faith? A story of courage, determination, and a dash of friendship.

Courage is something that comes from your heart. But if you can't find it there, you can wear it on your head at first.

Mae is a girl.

Bear is a bear.

But over the course of one life-changing, slightly nerve-racking train ride, they find out that this might be the only thing they don't have in common.

Kate Hoefler's signature lyricism and Jessixa Bagley's sweetly wry art combine for a gently whimsical, people (and bear) pleaser of a story about the fear of being different, the ways we overcome this fear, and the fact that often what's different is a lot more familiar than we might think. With courage, determination, and a dash of friendship, Mae and Bear discover all the humor, warmth, and beauty found in togetherness and in the unknown. 

IMPORTANT THEMES: This sweet, moving story about new experiences is just right for kids facing the first day of school or a big move, but it's also more broadly about the importance of courage, trying things that scare you, making new friends, the beauty and importance of diversity, and dealing with the feeling of being an outsider.

TEACHES KINDNESS AND EMPATHY: This book emphasizes the importance of kindness, courage, empathy, and friendship. It's a perfect classroom or library read-aloud, as kids will be excited to share their own experiences of trying new things and discussing things that scare them. BE BRAVE: It's all too common for kids to feel like outsiders at school, at camp, or anywhere else. This book shows it's okay to be different--and that trying new things is worth it, even when they seem scary or unfamiliar.

SWEET ILLUSTRATIONS: Fall in love with these adorable characters, portrayed with humor and sweetness by illustrator Jessixa Bagley! Perfect for: - Parents and caregivers- Teachers and librarians- Anyone looking for an empathy read- Kids moving to new schools or houses- Parents encouraging kids to be brave in the face of new experiences- Fans of unlikely friendship stories

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Publishers Weekly

Mae and Bear don't know each other, but they're on the same multi-species train, and they share trepidation about their respective solo journeys. Pink-skinned child Mae is afraid that the train travels "deep into bear places"—the backwoods. Bear feels similarly about "people places"—the city. Hoefler (Nothing in Common) crafts a solution for both: "Courage is something that comes from your heart—but if you can't find it there, you can wear it on your head at first." So Mae and Bear each make a paper bag chapeau that will help them resemble what they fear, and it leads to an instantly reassuring connection—one initially built on mistaken identity, yes, but strong enough to eventually survive a mutual reveal. The text's plainspoken lyricism (the new friends notice "how a train carries the sky on its back. How the birds join it") is matched by Bagley's (Daisy) emotionally nuanced, sensitively paced graphite and watercolor illustrations of the pair moving from a tentative acquaintanceship forged over snacks to heady, adventurous companionship. A visual high point is a series of exhilarating bird's eye view images depicting the pair's mutually emboldened exploration of the train. It's a moving celebration of the joys of a new and unexpected friendship—one born out of a newfound sense of wonder at and assurance in the world at large. Ages 5-8. Author's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. Illustrator's agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow. (Mar.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Kate Hoefler

Kate Hoefler is the author of Real Cowboys, Great Big Things, and Rabbit and the Motorbike. She loves feeling connected to people (and to dogs), and also loves how being notice-ers in books helps us to be notice-ers in the world. She makes her home in Ohio with her two children and with a small dog not unlike the dog in this book. She is forever grateful for being able to walk this story home with Corinna.

Corinna Luyken is the award-winning author-illustrator of The Book of Mistakes and the New York Times best-selling My Heart. She also illustrated Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have A Horse, written by Marcy Campbell. She lives in Olympia, Washington, with her husband, daughter, and two cats. You can see more of her work at

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Chronicle Books
Publication date
March 22, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039090 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | New Experience
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Picture books for children
Railroad trains

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