Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back is an understated but hilarious picture book. A bear has lost his hat. He goes around asking other animals if they've seen it, until he figures out where it is and reclaims it.The central joke is that the culprit never admits wrongdoing. However, kids will be able to tell, from the culprit's overly defensive reaction (not to mention the hat on his head) what's going on. Later, the bear himself has occasion to exhibit a defensive reaction, and that's very funny (though in a black humor sort of way).
The entire book is told as dialog, with colored fonts used to indicate different speakers. One side of the page shows the bear with another animal, and the other side has the text. So, on a picture with the bear, a turtle, and a rock, the text (with paragraphs in alternating colors) is:
"Have you seen my hat?
I haven't seen anything all day. I have been trying to climb this rock.
Would you like me to lift you on top of it?
It's hard to put a finger on why this is so funny, but trust me, the words and pictures together totally work. Like the text, Klassen's illustrations are minimalist, created digitally and in Chinese ink. The bear's face is mostly expressionless, except that his eyes widen when he realizes where his hat is. That page is shown with a red background (compared to neutrals on the other pages), thus highlighting the drama of the revelation.
I Want My Hat Back is a picture book that will bring joy to adults, while making older kids giggle, too. It might not work with very young kids, who won't get the dry humor (and may be horrified at the ending). But I think that early elementary school kids will appreciate it. And who doesn't like hats? Highly recommended, and going on our "keep" shelf!
Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes should be checked against the final printed book.
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.