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November 23, 2012 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

The Night _Max’s Magic Hat_ Came to Life

When Max was born, I took six weeks off and put the rest of my life on hold. No emergency room, no writing, nothing except my precious baby boy. Once those six weeks drew to a close, my husband Matt and I took a walk with our newborn and I said, “I really enjoyed my time off. Now I’m ready to work again.”
Matt snorted. “You just had a baby. That is work.”
“Yes,” I said patiently, “That was a good sabbatical. Now I’m ready to work again.”
Not just any work, though. I started writing a picture book for Max. My friend Beatrice’s mom, Mrs. Beauregard, had sent a treasure trove of gifts in the mail. She labeled the box TO MASTER MAXWELL INNES. That tickled me. Master Max!
I wrote longhand, with Max in my arms. I began,

Max had a hat. Its name was Fred.
It liked to sit upon his head.

‘Twas made of fur, but don’t despair,
No beasts were slaughtered for their hair.

When Max was born in middle May,
The mailman brought a box that day.

“To Master Max,” it said, no less,
Under a smudged return address.

I wove a tale about Max’s magic hat and the bullies who set on both of them. It won the prize for Best Children’s Literature in the Cornwall Public Library’s Second Annual Writing Contest in Partnership with Cornwall and Region Writer’s Society.

Vicki Fawcett, an artist in Spencerville, Ontario, became the illustrator for Max’s Magic Hat. She cheerfully accommodated my requests like, “I’d like some kids with melanin” and “Could you make the hat furry?” and transformed my words into the best of all things, a story for children of all ages.

I showed Max the e-book, but it wasn’t until the print book arrived in the mail that he was overcome with joy. “It’s finally here! It’s real!” he called, which I consider proof that the 2.0 generation still likes paper books.

Tonight, I’m driving Max to Art Scene in Spencerville for Vicki’s art show, “Just North of Here – Inuit portraits.”

Of course most people will be there to applaud Vicki’s meticulous and tender aboriginal paintings, but Max and I will be Vicki’s special guests. I figure Max can sign books too, if the buyers want, so he can be a part of the history. I’m hoping he’ll enjoy the spotlight. As my friend Becky said, I’d love to give my children experiences rather than things. Maybe he’ll remember this as a magic night. Or maybe he’ll just fall asleep on the drive home.

There’s only one way to find out.

Max's Magic Hat

Max’s Magic Hat, available in print through Createspace and Amazon, or on the Kindle.

Click to download Invite-1 (invitation to art gallery show)

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