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.
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: 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.