Review: I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back

Jon Klassen (2011)

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The Story: A bear has lost his hat and he wants it back, so he very politely asks all the forest animals: “Have you seen my hat?” to which they all answer “No.” When all hope seems lost, the bear has a startling revelation, he HAS seen his hat, and he’s going to get it back!

What Wallace and I Think: This simple story’s humour, largely about taking people at their word, is found between the text and image. It is the gap which lets children in on the joke before the bear, putting them in an attractive place of power in the reading. Children will know who has the bear’s hat long before he does, placing them into the action of the book. When the bear asks “Have you seen my hat?” he can be addressing the children outside the book as well as the animals inside of it. I believe it is the book’s invitation to readers to take part that makes it an enjoyable read and reread.

Picturebook scholars often talk about the “drama of turning the page” as a special aspect of picturebooks. Klassen’s book utilizes this drama wonderfully. The last half of the book relies heavily on this drama to create its humour, something I believe adult readers will find equally as hilarious as the children they’re reading to. My favorite instance of page turning drama takes place when the bear finally realizes who has his hat. Despondent, the bear lies defeated on the ground. A forest animal asks the bear, “What does your hat look like?” (npg) The Bear answers, “It is red and pointy and . . .” (npg). If children had not realized thus far that they’d seen the hat, this description offers the last chance for them to join in on the joke before the bear. The drama comes in the ellipses. Will the bear realize as well that he HAS seen his hat?!

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Turn the page, and the bear has bolted up, eyes wide open, the background drenched in red “I HAVE SEEN MY HAT.” Drama ensues.

Klassen in a master at creating books that give readers more information than the characters, which empowers the readers. It is this sense of empowerment, being in on the joke, which makes the book attractive. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (click to see my review) is another wonderful example of Klassen’s style.

This picturebook is best suited for toddlers up to age four or five (or well beyond if like me, you seem to have the same sense of humour as a two year old). I give this picturebook a 5/5

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