CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 11 . . . . November 16, 2012
This story is NOT a sequel to—or indeed, anything to do with—Klassen’s book, I Want My Hat Back, which was a huge success last year and was named the New York Times Book Review’s Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year.
Klassen is an artist whose work in the animated feature film Coraline, as well as his award-winning illustrations for Cat’s Night Out (which received a Governor General’s award in 2010) attest to his outstanding talent.
This is Not My Hat is the second picture book written and illustrated by Klassen. The story is set underwater and has a minimum of characters (just three) and a minimum of text (fewer than 200 words). A small fish has stolen a hat from a big sleeping fish. The thief is quite sure the owner will not wake up for a long time…
Small fish is headed for the place where plants grow big and tall and close together where nobody will be able to find him. There is no worry about having been seen as the observer has promised not to tell anyone which way the little rascal has gone! And, indeed he and his stolen hat make it to the perfect hiding place confident of success. The last three double spread paintings in This is Not My Hat are without text and finish the story in a more satisfying and succinct way than words ever could. A first reading to a four-year-old elicited the following comment and request : “That’s a funny story…can you read it again?”
Using light on dark values with subdued, delicate colours in his paintings, Klassen evokes the underwater setting and mood of This is Not My Hat beautifully. He has done a clever job of building suspense by making sure that his illustrations allow the reader to know more about the story than the narrator does. Just as he uses a minimal number of words and characters in his story, the author/illustrator follows suit by using a minimal amount of movement for what turns out to be a classic “chase” story.
If a copy of Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back is available, the two stories could be read in tandem. An interesting discussion of moral values, including ownership, stealing and retribution—or perhaps the importance of hats—might well ensue. In any case, Klassen’s latest book will be fun to read aloud to little ones and should find its rightful place on the elementary library shelf next to his 2010 award-winning picture book.
A retired teacher-librarian Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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