Book of the Week: I Want My Hat Back

Monday, February 1, 2016

Text and Images by Taryn

I Want My Hat Back is a marvelous book in the true dictionary sense of marvel: it is a wonderful and astonishing thing, the kind of book that makes a child laugh and adult chuckle, and both smile in appreciation. --The New York Times

Jon Klassen is a hugely talented, award winning, children's illustrator and, more recently, author. I Want My Hat Back is the first book he both wrote and illustrated. The story is sweet and surprising and thoroughly enjoyable.

We went to a book festival in Los Angeles a few years ago and listened to Mr. Klassen read some of his stories. When he asked the children what type of animal they thought the main character was, the answers ranged from beaver to bear to ferret. I love the illustrations in this book because they are natural and understated. And they do so much of the story telling. Subtle changes in the character's expressions, the pages when the pictures tell a slightly different version of the story than the text, even better- the pages without text.

In an interview with Art of the Picture Book, a website dedicated to exploring the design and illustration of children's picture books, Klassen gave some great insight into his creative process and purpose:

"If they are being read to by an adult, I feel that the pictures are the kids' territory. So if the pictures give out some information that the text doesn't, there's a secret from the person reading it or maybe even from the person who wrote it. Kids learn to read more critically; they realize these pictures have a reason. They are not just there to entertain us while all the important text is happening."

The entire story of I Want My Hat Back is told as a dialogue between a bear (or whatever your child imagines) looking for his lost hat and the woodland animals he encounters on his search. The conversations are basic enough that the story is wonderful to read along with an early reader, but it also requires critical thinking. The story is intentionally open ended and lets young readers draw their own conclusions, which is both entertaining and empowering to kids.

You know, bears may stand for adults in some way, because they're big, they're ungainly, they're goofy.  They're like most of us grown ups. But the bear in this book paws down; he's got to be the dimmest, most slow-witted, brilliantly stupid bear to come along in years. I really love him. -NPR Weekend Edition

Me too.

In addition to I Want My Hat Back, Klassen has written and/or illustrated many more fantastic books. Some of our favorites are:

This is Not My Hat, by Jon Klassen
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett
The Dark, by Lemony Snicket


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