Hiram’s Red Shirt by Mabel Watts and illustrated by Aurelius Battaglia
When I was a little girl I had a favorite book, Hiram’s Red Shirt; I made my mom read this book to me almost every night. Once I learned to read for myself this book stayed on my shelf, and periodically I’d still come back to it just for fun, but eventually, I outgrew it, and it went to live in the attic.
Around the time I graduated from college, Hiram’s Red Shirt came up in conversation. I remember looking for the book among my old things in the attic, but much to my dismay I couldn’t find it. My mom and I searched and search, but to no avail. I was sad, but I figured my copy had been passed down to my little cousins at some point and hopefully someone somewhere was enjoying Hiram’s antics. Meanwhile, we kept our eyes open at yard sales and flea markets, hoping to snag someone else’s old copy.
When my husband and I started dating and eventually moved in together, we worked at combining and sorting through all our individual lives and “stuff” deciding what to let go of and what to keep. One thing I kept was a bunch of kids’ books that I’d found while rummaging through my parents’ attic looking for Hiram, but I lamented to my husband (boyfriend at the time) that I missed Hiram’s Red Shirt and told him how much I’d loved it as a child.
When my next birthday rolled around, my husband surprised me with my much-beloved book. I was so excited to see it again, and I couldn’t believe he’d found a copy, but he had. It was indeed a special gift and one that I’ll cherish always.
Tonight I cracked this book open once again just for fun. Hiram was still there with his red hair doing his farm chores. I wondered what had drawn me to this particular book as a child. Was it the familiar depictions of farm life? Was it that I could understand the comfort of old, well-worn clothes? Or was it just the fact that it was a good story with colorful pictures? I love looking back at the illustrations and thinking, “I remember looking at these pictures over and over again, memorizing every detail.” Whatever it was, Hiram’s Red Shirt still captivates me to this day, and it will always be my favorite children’s’ book.