The successful ingredient of this book is most certainly its simplicity. On the surface it tells a simple story of a bear looking for his hat, but its astute and witty arrangement highlights some interesting observations of society.
A bear has lost his hat. He walks through the woods asking a series of animals, “Have you seen my hat?” In turn, each animal claims not to know the hat’s whereabouts. One character’s answer stands out from the rest though. He’s not as succinct as the others in his response, and he acts quite suspicious really. This can be used as evidence, not only to discover who has the hat, but also to predict what happens at the end of the story.
The story is told completely in dialogue (making it a great book for role-play) where text colour differentiates each character as opposed to the use of quotation marks. Jon Klassen’s style is one of dry humour. The language is simplistic- as if directly from the lips of a child. His delivery invites you to become the detective of the story, giving you opportunities throughout the book to spot the hat or work out its whereabouts before the bear does.
Each animal he encounters represents a different personality type. The bear is simple and gullible who trustingly believes others. The fox is quite unhelpful, promptly declaring he hasn’t seen the hat without asking what it might look like. The turtle is naïve, not aware of anything else around him but his own mission. The snake is a dreamer who is easily side-tracked. The Mole is difficult, answering a question with a question. The Moose is the insightful helper.
The bear eventually accuses one of the animals of stealing his hat. The word choice (“You. You stole my hat”) is very childlike, frank and heartfelt. There follows a wordless page where the reader can predict the conversation or the outcome of this confrontation.
The last page delivers the real punch line. Again, the reader must use clues from the story to predict what may have taken place. Whatever you decide has happened will be based on your perception alone- you won’t get a definitive answer- and therein lies the wittiness of Jon Klassen’s writing.
The illustrations are predominately presented in a sombre brown. There is one page with a red background which effectively portrays the bears feelings when he finally realises he’s seen someone with his hat.
I Want My Hat Back is one of those books that will deliver its intent in the first reading. Each subsequent reading just won’t be the same because you’ll know the punch line. Unless you’re my daughter who likes to play along and pretend she doesn’t know the ending.
That certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy re-reading this book. It offers much more than just the punch line. There are different features to focus on with each successive reading of the book. I’ve very possibly over-analysed this book, but I’ve had a lot of fun reading and re-reading this book over and over. I hope you do too.
We were lucky to get an interview with author, Jon Klassen, so if you love the sound of this book head on over and read the interview. It’s certainly interesting.
Author/Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, October 2011
RRP: $24.95 (aud)
Suitable for: ages 4+