Harold’s Hat

Our hero.
Our hero.

The charming Susanna Leonard Hill is holding a blog contest, and I’m giving it a go.

The rules, in Susanna’s own words: “Write a children’s story, in poetry or prose, maximum 400 words about the Fourth of July in which a secret is revealed or a mystery is solved!”

Fourth of July? Mystery? My first idea was The Mystery of the Missing Fingers.

But better judgment prevailed.


UPDATE: I am delighted to report that Harold’s Hat was the winner of the 2014 Highlights for Children Fiction Contest!

Please be aware, however, that the winning story is quite different from the one posted below.  If you want to read the winning story, you’re gonna have to get a copy of Highlights. (You should do this, by the way. That mag is awesome.)

AN UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: It’s official: Harold’s Hat will appear in the July 2015 issue of Highlights for Children. Feel free to camp out next to your newsstand now!



By Mike Allegra

The day was here! Finally!


Hot dogs!



Oh, and there was also The Hat.

Harold could hardly think of The Hat without saying, “Mwah-ha-ha!”

He’ll show that Betsy Lominzer, that’s for sure.

Last year Betsy wore a special Fourth of July hat to the town parade – a nice one that had flashing lights and a cup holder for her lemonade.

Harold asked if he could try it on and she said no. Not even for one teeny, tiny little milisecond.

“Fine,” thought Harold. “I’ll show you next year.”

And, well…Mwah-ha-ha!

The Hat took Harold six months to build. He kept it out of harm’s way in his closet.

At least he thought he did.

It must be out of harm’s way in his toy box.


Out of harm’s way in his dresser?


Under the bed? Behind the hamper? In the closet again, just to make sure?


“Whaaaat?” Mom was trying to light the barbecue.

“Have you seen My Hat? The one with the red, white and blue glitter, and the flashing lights, and the siren, and the cup holder?”

“No,” she replied. “Where on earth did you get…? ”


“Too loud!” Dad was pouring chlorine in the pool.

“Have you seen My Hat? The one with the battery powered waving flag action and the cannons that shoot sparks?”

“You have a hat that shoots sparks?” Dad asked. “That could be a fire haz­–”


“Ba!” Billy was sucking on his foot.

“Have you seen My Hat? The one with the megaphone and the solar powered jukebox that plays a medley of Sinatra songs when you push a red button on the brim?”

“Do-be-do-be-do,” Billy said.

Wait. That wasn’t Billy.

Harold followed the do-bes to Sparky’s doghouse and found him swooning to Sinatra’s crooning.

The hat was safe and sound.

“Good boy.”

Off to the parade! Off to find Betsy Lominzer! Mwah-ha-ha!

But…well…Betsy’s hat had improved a bit since last year.

It had improved quite a lot, actually.

“Wow! Can I try on your hat for just one teeny, tiny, little millisecond?” Harold asked.

“No,” Betsy Lominzer replied.

“Fine!” thought Harold. “I’ll show you next year.”

In an instant, Harold’s mind filled with new and exciting ideas. A bigger hat. A better hat. The Best Hat Ever.

His lips curled into a smile.

“Mwah-ha-ha!” he said.

96 Replies to “Harold’s Hat”

  1. Oh Mike, this is just fabulous! I really love it, especially the ‘mwah ha ha’ and the fact the dog was taking care of the hat and…I was really worried about that hat! And then it wasn’t even good enough?! Can’t believe she wouldn’t let him try it on. Now I can’t WAIT till next year:-) Thanks for sharing Mike, and I think you’re on to a winner…even if Harry wasn’t:-)

    1. I must admit, my first idea was to have the dog destroy Harold’s hat. But, well, what a bummer that would’ve been. Besides, the idea of a canine Sinatra lover made me smile.

      And fear not, Harold will get Betsy next year, I’m sure. And if he doesn’t, then he’ll get her the year after that. Or maybe the year after that…

      1. Ah, then there’s gotta be a nook in the hat for pills and cigarettes 😀

        But seriously, I loved this story. You’re really talented.

  2. You mean after ALL that work Harold did, and Betsy’s new hat was STILL better? How could she top a cannon that shoots sparks AND Frank Sinatra on the jukebox? What, did she have a popcorn machine built in?

    1. I’ll bet an illustrator would have a field day drawing Betsy’s New Hat.

      A popcorn machine? Yes! Cotton Candy Maker? Sure! Home Theatre System? Why not?

      Her hat could be three stories high.

  3. I was expecting Sparky to have “re-shaped” the hat, as in “my dog ate my hat.” But clearly, Sparky loves Frank. Now I really want to see what Betsy’s looks like! Nice story!

    1. Doggie destruction was part of my original plan, but I just didn’t have the heart to do it. Harold worked too hard.

      And if you want to see a drawing of Betsy’s hat, you may want to commission your boy. I understand he knows his way around a pencil. (If you need me to sweeten the deal, let him know I’ll post his Hat Masterpiece on my blog.)

  4. This is terrific, Mike! I’m so glad you entered. What a great story! I have newfound respect for anyone who can write a mystery – especially in 400 words – apparently there’s a reason I haven’t tried this before 🙂 Great job! 🙂

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for this opportunity!

      HH was a lot of fun to write — but I must admit, your contest rules made me sweat for a while: “A mystery? In 400 words? About the Fourth of July? Why did I tell Susanna I’d do this?!”

  5. What a fun story. Mike! Harold has some hat!! And loved your drawing, too! I can just picture that kind of hat in a 4th of July parade!

  6. Oh it is so obvious you had great fun with this story! And boy do I love Harold. NEVER GIVE UP! Now that’s the spirit of July 4th. I’m so glad I stopped by. I’ll be coming back.

  7. What fun, Mike!!! Glad he found his hat (putting something in a safe place, or “out of harm’s way” is a sure way to lose it. I speak from experience.) But Betsy had an even better one? Drat that Betsy… Next year, Harold. Next year. Mwah-ha-ha…

  8. Mike, you’ve hit upon a familiar theme here, for I think we’ve all had Betsy Lominzer’s in our life at some point (in fact, I think I’m related to two). And I suspect you’ve a little mad scientist in you…am I right? I went for a more traditional mystery, a la Encyclopedia Brown, but good old Harold had me rooting for him right up until the end.

  9. Maybe Harold needs some help from Aretha Franklin to find or make a hat far better than Betsy’s. Maybe he should make a whole awesome, rocket-powered suit.

  10. Perfect kid voice! The illustration is amazing! Now, I wonder what Betsy’s hat looks like. How did she beat that??? Fireworks shooting out? Ponies dancing on her head?

  11. GREAT story…I nodded my head and smiled all the way through! Love the images that popped into my mind as you described the hat…and I was rooting for the mc…darn that Betsy!!!! Glad you joined in Susanna’s fun.:)

    1. Thanks, Marylin! I love Harold types. Despite their disappointments and failures, they just keep plugging away.

      Hm. Come to think of it, writers are pretty much “Harold Types” aren’t they? 😉

  12. Great story. I think it’d be fun to have a hat like Harold’s that could squeeze mustard onto a hot dog. Hard to believe Betsy’s hat could top that, but at least he’s focused on making something better 🙂

  13. I saw someone else mention in the comments that this could be turned into a picture book – I second that one! The picture you did is an awesome front cover, now you just need to do the pictures for inside, that’s all!

    1. Well, a picture book manuscript is kinda the goal here, Vanessa. Hey! Are you reading my posts as carelessly as I read yours? For SHAME!

      Actually, I think we should collaborate on a nonfiction PB manuscript about vermin. We already covered head lice, but what about cockroaches, deer ticks, tapeworms, and bedbugs?

      1. What? Where did you say a picture book manuscript is the goal?! But if I have been reading your posts carelessly then it is just because I have been dazzled by your talent (I’m allowed to adapt your line here aren’t I?).

        And yay! I’m up for collaborating on a vermin PB. Mwah-ha-ha!

      2. Fine. It says “Write a children’s story.” But “picture book” is to be inferred. (Or is it implied?)

        The takeaway, I think, is that I read my own posts carelessly.

        A vermin book would sell like hotcakes. A nonfiction essay accompanied by poetry and doodles! Mwah-ha-ha indeed!

  14. Yay, Mike! I vote that you enter pretend challenges and contests! If this is one of your quickie, non-publishing type books, it really seems unfair to the rest of the children’s book authors out there. They don’t stand a chance.

Join the conversation! We're all friends here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: