I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen, 2011)

You’re going to like this one. Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to like this one. The bear? He has lost his hat. He is forlorn, bereft, anxious. Look at that sad face! None of the other animals seem to have seen his hat. He begins to sink into a depression when, all of a sudden, he belatedly realizes he saw his hat on the head of a rabbit, who in retrospect was a pretty shifty character. After a brief stare-down, we see the bear with his hat, and we are left to our own conclusions about the fate of the rabbit. Kind of. We’re pretty sure the bear ate him. Yay!

I was told that Klassen had a hard time finding a publisher for this wonderful book. All the publishers wanted him to change the ending, which would have been just wrong. Children will feel a sense of righteous justice in the bear’s response. And no, it’s not going to teach kids that violence solves disputes. Rather, it reflects how children feel inside when someone takes their stuff, and it’s incredibly validating for children to see their feelings put down on paper. Likewise, children will empathize with the bear’s experience of having a problem that no one seems to be able to help with.

As, frankly, will adults. You know when someone acts like a jerk, and ten minutes later you think of just what you should have said or done? That’s the satisfyiing feeling you get at the end of this book.

Also, the ink drawings are simple and earthy and compelling, and there’s a surprise moment in the middle of the book that made me laugh out loud the first time I read it. You won’t get bored with this book, and neither will children. When you read it, you’ll probably want to have a conversation with children about what you do when you’re mad at someone. But resist the temptation to moralize or condemn the bear’s actions. The kids already know they’re not supposed to eat people when they get mad. Let them enjoy the fantasy.


2 thoughts on “I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen, 2011)

  1. Elizabeth McD November 21, 2012 at 11:05 pm Reply

    In a bookstore this afternoon I found another amazing book by the same author – _This Is Not My Hat_, about a small fish that has stolen a large fish’s bowler and is trying to justify his actions. Here’s an interview with the author about both books: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/07/news/la-jc-kids-book-author-jon-klassen-talks-about-this-is-not-my-hat-20121005

  2. jarrodgreen November 22, 2012 at 12:32 am Reply

    Yes, I’ve seen it. These days every successful children’s book must, unfortunately, become a franchise. There are a few places where this works well – Mo Willems’ _Knuffle Bunny_ and _Elephant and Piggy_ series come to mind.

    I found _This is Not My Hat_ cute, and I like that it takes the perspective of the wrong-doer – we see his feelings of self-satisfaction, even though his come-uppance is coming. And I really adore Klassen’s approach to showing immoral behavior in his books, and not excusing it – I think it’s important for kids to hear stories that don’t moralize at them.

    But much like Amy Krouse-Rosenthal’s _Little Pea_ and Peter McCarty’s _Jeremy Draws a Monster_, though, I find the original to have a little more je ne sais quoi. 🙂

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