Bear wants his hat back, and questions the various animals he meets along the way as to whether they’ve seen his red, pointy hat. (Keep an eye on the illustrations.) He asks a fox, a frog, a rabbit wearing headgear, a turtle trying to climb a rock, a snake in a tree, and a something or other1, before collapsing in a woebegone heap to wonder if he’ll ever find it again.
…before a sympathetic deer asks him a question that prods him into realizing that he has seen his hat! Bear sprints past the bemused creatures whom he’s met before to confront…the rabbit! The book ends with a squirrel asking the bear, now sitting amid a scatter of crushed branches, whether the bear’s seen a rabbit wearing a hat. The bear says, echoing the rabbit, “No. Why are you asking me. I haven’t seen him I haven’t seen any rabbits anywhere. I would not eat a rabbit. Don’t ask me any more questions.”
No deep morals here, but on the other hand no sentimentality: it’s a bear in search of the hat he’s lost. It’s just fun to read, and to guess what the animals are in the illustrations. The bear’s response to the rabbit’s deed may be upsetting to sensitive kids, and I can see sensitive parents trying to explain to kids just what’s happened to the rabbit. Sensible kids will probably realize that this is made-up; how many talking bears and hat-wearing rabbits have you seen recently? and besides, bears do eat rabbits.
Overall, if the kids are capable of realizing that Beatrix Potter’s stuff isn’t real either, then they’ll be just fine with this. The illustrations are fairly simple, almost cartoon-like, and bear a passing resemblance to Eric Carle’s books.
1I can’t tell what it is from the illustration; does anybody out there know what it is?