Monday, November 14, 2011

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

There are a lot of beautiful picture books these days with just a few words and a clever twist at the end and they are cute, but they're not the kind of book that invites re-reading. Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back is not of that ilk. Yes, it only has about 250 words, many of them repeated, and yes the art is lovely. The book is beyond clever; it is outstanding. I'm fascinated by it -- both the narrative and the art. I'm not at all surprised to see it on the "best of" lists that are starting to appear (like this one in the NYT).

It's a story about a not-very-smart bear looking for his lost hat. Jon Klassen, illustrator of Cats' Night Out (and others), has combined simple cut-out shapes with textured art. The large-font text -- which would work very well for emerging readers -- is all in dialogue and in a different colour for each animal. Red, the colour of the lost hat, is used to great effect. Most of the illustrations are on the left, with text by itself on the right-hand page. Whenever this layout changes, it signifies a dramatic moment. The white background changes to red on another significant page. A crucial moment is wordless. The denouement is delicious. I love the deadpan humour thoughout. I love this book.

All ages. Readalike: Wolves by Emily Gravett.

5 comments:

Claire at Latitude said...

This sounds wonderful, so I've reserved it at my public library. Have to admit I think part of the reason I'm so drawn to it is that the person on the cover looks a little like "Big Man", an award-winning sculpture at a big exhibition that's just opened in my town: www.garden-nz.co.nz/latest-news/news/art-takes-its-model-from-nature-at-auckland-botanic-gardens-3.html

Lindy said...

Hey! The sculpture you're talking about does look like Klassen's bear. The artwork in I Want My Hat Back also brings to mind the distinctive Dorling Kindersley design style.

Claire at Latitude said...

Now I'm intrigued about the Dorling Kindersley design style, because in NZ those books (imported from the UK) are very photographic - a particular kind of highly illustrated and informative reference book mostly for children, though they've branched into travel guides as well.

Lindy said...

Yes, the cut-out photos sharply contrast against white backgrounds in DK books and that is the aspect that is similar to Klassen's artwork. Also, the text in different font colours brought the DK style to my mind.

Eric Karl Anderson said...

Sounds like a very artful book for children. Thanks for the suggestion!