Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

A fish in a derby confesses his theft. And, as thieves do, he justifies his actions. He convinces himself that he is going to get away with the hat. He heads for the place, “where the plants grow big and tall and close together.” And his last words are, “Nobody will ever find me.”

Klassen has condensed the essence of a crime story into sixteen double-page illustrations and just over two hundred words. The words are a stage soliloquy by the fishy thief, while all the time the illustrations are telling a different story.

Muted pastels on a black background and repeated oval shapes for both leaves and fish create a deceptive visual simplicity. Planning illustrations that will cross the gutter where the pages join is tricky. And there is careful comic timing in making sure that picture and words stay in sync. Here, the words and pictures play off each other to tell the full story just as they do in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. It is not surprising that This Is Not My Hat won the 2013 Caldecott Award. The large font lettering on a white background offers the added benefit that some children with impaired vision will be able to enjoy this story.

Best of all, this is a perfect story to start a family conversation because the fishy thief's last words create a foreboding but ambiguous ending. When you share this story with a child, be sure to listen to what the child thinks happened to the little thief. Another ethical dilemma to talk about is whether the crab was right to snitch.  Klassen's previous picture book I Want My Hat Back was reviewed on this blog last year.  

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Jon Klassen won the Kate Greenaway Medal for This is Not My Hat