Magnets, thieves, hats and Jon Klassen…

posted in: Jon Klassen | 20

Tomorrow sees the publication of latest book by an author who perhaps created the biggest buzz in the picture book world last year.

This is not my hat by Jon Klassen is clearly closely related to I want my hat back, Klassen’s widely hailed picture book from 2011 (here’s my review): There’s a hat, it’s not where it should be, and the precise nature of the end of the tale depends on you, the reader’s interpretation of events.

This time round it’s a fish (rather than a bear), and he’s stolen a hat from a much larger fish. The little one is confident he’ll get away with his thieving, but will he?

Dead pan humour is the hallmark of this slightly sinister book, once again full of elegant illustrations which are all the more eyecatching for their black, brooding background. Klassen powerfully conveys the menace behind the larger fish’s stalking of the thief with the utmost of ease, whilst the speckly bubbles and textured weeds in the water remind me of my favourite book illustrated by Klassen, House Held Up by Trees, written by Ted Kooser.

M trying to look as menacing as the big fish.

Like its spiritual cousin, Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton, this is a book I’d recommend to philosophy and ethics students, from the pretty young to those much older. Both books end (or do they?) with a question mark, both explore what might be questionable behaviour, both lighten the mood with well observed body language and a good few occasions to (wryly) laugh. Both books are from the same publisher so I wonder if theme is beginning to develop here?

I didn’t fall head over heels in love with I want my hat back but this one, This is not my hat, has raised more smiles, despite it being literally and metaphorically darker. It’s a beautiful book and is great for encouraging conversation and posing more questions than answers.

Inspired by This is not my hat we set about creating our own mini theatre to play out the drama in the book. The girls painted the inside of boxes black and used tissue paper strips and cut-out leaf shapes to recreate the underwater setting.

We made fish out of shiny paper and attached them to cocktail sticks stuck into a piece of blutack attached to a 1p coin, all painted black. We also glued a strong magnet to a craft stick.

Now our fish were ready to swim in the depths.

By using the magnets under the boxes (the fish were inside the boxes) we could move them around and have them chase each other.

It was quite spellbinding to be able to make the fish move as if by magic – definitely a technique we’ll be trying out again.

Whilst working on our little box theatres I also got to ask Jon Klassen a few questions. Here’s how our conversation went:

Playing by the book: Do you wear hats yourself? Have you ever visited a milliner’s shop?

Jon Klassen: I do wear hats. I like the idea of all sorts of hats, but my head just isn’t suited to very many. Milliner’s shops catch my eye when I pass them and I think they are neat, but I know going inside will bring only sadness cause I won’t look good in any of them. I do think it’s kind of weird that people wore hats all the time everywhere for a long time and then it died out. You look at old pictures from the 30s and 40s and even before that and it’s just hats everywhere. And now if you try and bring any of those hats back, it doesn’t work. My apologies to those out there that are trying, but I dunno, you guys.

Playing by the book: If so, do you have a favourite hat?

Jon Klassen in his baseball hat!
Jon Klassen: I wear a baseball hat all the time. I don’t know why, but I do relax when I wear one. Right now it’s a Dodgers hat because I live in Los Angeles, but I’m one of those jerks who would switch it up if I moved somewhere else.

Playing by the book: Have you ever stolen something? 🙂

Jon Klassen: I think I probably stole little things, but I never had the bravery for it, really. I think what makes it good for stories like this is that stealing such a simple thing. It seems silly when you think about it in real life. “I want this thing, so I am going to take it and then I will have it.”. I guess people steal for all sorts of reasons, but that way of stealing, just because you want the actual thing, seems hilarious.

Playing by the book: If so, how did your story end?

Jon Klassen: I can’t remember ever getting caught, but that probably has more to do with only having the stomach to steal stuff nobody cared about rather than any shrewdness on my part.

Playing by the book: Did you already have the idea for This is not my hat in the back of your mind when you were creating I want my hat back? Or did the idea for this new “partner” book come later?

Jon Klassen: It came later. I had some ideas for other books that I tried first but they didn’t really work when it got into it. I was actually surprised, when I’d finished writing it, how close it was in its basic stuff to the last book. The main idea had been the narrator saying things that were getting contradicted in the pictures until the whole thing catches up to him, and after that was established, the story just sort of turned into what it is all by itself. I do like that it’s a totally different book, but if you had to sum up the stories of both of them in as few words as possible, they’d be pretty close.

Playing by the book: Is there a third hat book brewing? Can you give us a hint?

Jon Klassen: All I know right now is that it will involve animals looking around, probably. I wish I could tell you more. I really do.


So like his new book, Jon Klassen leaves questions still hanging in the air! I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but if you’re impatient to know more, do stop by on the next stage of the blog tour, tomorrow at the marvellous 100 Scope Notes and maybe more will be revealed…

Disclosure: I received a free copy of This is not my hat from the publishers. This review nevertheless represents my own, unbiased opinion about the book.

20 Responses

  1. Emma @ My Book Corner

    You can see that link with Chris Haughton too? It’s definitely that wicked, deadpan humour isn’t it!!

    Love what you’ve created here – those fish are gorgeous & the little hats are perfect!

  2. Zoe

    Thanks Emma, Z-Dad and Jackie, thanks so much for your kind comments. The mini fish theatres have been lots of fun to play with. One trick is to use cardboard boxes which are quite thin – the shoe box was ideal. The one made from corrugated cardboard was too thick until I tore a layer off. But all worth it in the end 🙂

  3. Sam

    Fantastic fish theatres! I envy your arts and crafts ability -such wonderful ideas you come up with. Thanks also for pointing out this book and author, neither of which I have heard of. Must look into it.
    Sam recently posted..Happy National Poetry Day!

  4. Tasha Goddard

    You know, I actually keep getting muddled up between Chris Haughton and Jon Klassen’s stories and now I see why! Has anyone seen them both in the same room, though? Perhaps they are one person.

    I love your theatre and will show the girls this when they get home later. Do stop by ours on Friday to see our own little bit of (slightly different) theatre!
    Tasha Goddard recently posted..National poetry day: Autumn Leaves

  5. Mrs Brown

    That theatre is so great. Not sure I’ve got your artistic expertise but I do have a big empty box so we’ll see what happens. What a fun post – crafts, stories, insightful review and an interview! Thanks for this one
    Mrs Brown recently posted..all things Oliver Jeffers

  6. Darshana

    Great post. Loved the theater box idea! Can’t wait to read this book, have heard so many wonderful things about it. Its funny because i am one of those people who wasn’t a big fan of the “I want my hat back” because of the ending. Yet for some reason I am okay with the ending in this book. I think its because in this one it is sort of expected maybe even anticipated. Whereas in the previous book it caught me by surprise.
    Darshana recently posted..Creepy Carrots!

  7. Rachel

    I will have to look out for “This is not my Hat” as I happened to borrow “I want my Hat back” from the library a few months ago and thought it was hilarious (especially the ending!) My daughters loved it too.
    Rachel recently posted..Holiday Fun

  8. Jill

    Hello, I work with Molly at Walker Books and just wanted to say that your craft activities are amazing. And I loved your Oh No, George cake for the picnic. I need to take a leaf from your book and get the paint, glitter and glue out with my 4y and 2y at the weekend!

  9. choxbox

    Lovely – the book sounds totally intriguing! Loved the questions and the answers too 🙂

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