I knew as I ran my fingers and eyes over its dust cover, matte pages, mood-setting endpapers and dark colours that This is Not My Hat was going to be a winning book. These details were working well to set the scene for effective story-telling.
I think Jon Klassen has written a perfect sequel to his debut picture book, I Want My Hat Back. He has retained the themes of theft and hats in his latest book, but Klassen has found a great balance between developing a trademark for himself and providing a point of difference between the two stories.
Again, Klassen uses dry humour, deceptive simplicity and ambiguity to tell a clever story. What differs from I Want My Hat Back is the perspective. I Want My Hat Back is told through the viewpoint of the bear who has his hat stolen. The hat thief is the story teller in this follow-up book.
This is Not My Hat is a moralistic story in which Klassen again broaches the topic of stealing and revenge. A little fish has stolen a hat from a big fish. Throughout the story, readers listen to the naïve self-talk of the little fish who makes a number of assumptions and excuses. He is doing his best to outswim the big fish and make his way to a safe place.
The big fish lurks silently in the story. As readers, we only know what the big fish is thinking and feeling by interpreting the small but significant details in the illustrations. But, that big fish certainly has a lot to say through his eyes.
Klassen finishes with an open-ended page, leaving readers with ample to think about and allowing children to come to their own conclusions.
My three year old’s interpretation certainly has her terrified of ever attempting to steal.
By Jon Klassen
Publisher: Candlewick Press (Walker Books), October 2012
RRP: $24.95 (aud)