Friday, August 31, 2012


By Jon Klassen

(Candlewick Press, 2011)
Humor’s a funny thing.  You have to be in the right mood for a joke or it will fall flat, maybe even offend.  Such was the case when I first read this book last year.  I did not like the ending.  Not a bit.  Yep, I was offended in the same way I was when I first read the otherwise worthy book, Some Smug Slug.  I am a hardcore vegetarian and I do not like to think of animals eating animals.  Even if it’s the law of nature, part of the life cycle, yada yada yada.  Berries for all!

A few months ago, a colleague came to me, incredibly excited about a picture book he’d stumbled upon over the weekend.  “Hysterical!” he said.  “I could not stop laughing!  Only I can’t remember the title.  Something about a hat.”  Well, we Googled and, to my surprise, it was this book.

I gave it another try.  Okay,…better.  Still thumbs down to the ending.

Third try today.  (It’s hard to get my hands on a copy of the book.  It is ALWAYS checked out of the library.  In fact, I grabbed the book as it was being reshelved.  Apparently, it’s not just my colleague who finds this book pretty funny.) 

Yes, I see the humor…the whole way through the book.  I reminded myself of what Roald Dahl did to Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Sometimes we need to be entertained in seeing characters get their comeuppance.

Simple story here in I Want My Hate Back.  A bear wanders the forest asking the other creatures if they’ve seen his hat.  It’s missing.  And, yes, the bear wants it back. 

I do love the simple use of color in the text.  Bear’s parts are in regular black ink.  Each of the other animals speaks in colors that correspond with their own coloring (e.g., green font for the turtle; brown font for the deer).  There is one exception, that being the animal whose words are shown in red.  The color matches not the animal, but the hue of the missing hat which this animal clearly knows something about.  All of this builds to the big ending.

Naturally, I prefer a couple of the parts in the middle of the story.  When the bear asks the turtle, “Have you seen my hat?”, the turtle says, “I haven’t seen anything all day.  I have been trying to climb this rock.”  Poor turtle.  It’s not exactly a colossal rock.  We see the good side of the agitated bear when he says, “Would you like me to lift you on top of it?”  Turtle’s reply:  “Yes, please.”  A day’s work accomplished in a passing gesture!

I also love the bear’s response to the clueless animal—mole?  armadillo?—that says, “What is a hat?”  This is where I laughed out loud.

Klassen’s illustrations are simple and effective.  Each page portrays the featured animals and a minimal background.  This allows the viewer to focus on the animal interactions and the search for the missing red hat.

Kids will indeed love this story.  The whole story.  Check it out if you can get your hands on it.  In most households, however, it would make a worthy purchase.  I have a feeling I Want My Hat Back will warrant many encore performances.  With the different colored fonts, it makes a wonderful two-person read-aloud.

Laugh freely.  As I’ve learned, this is not a book to be taken too seriously.


  1. This exemplifies just one of the reasons your former students and their parents miss you so at HMB: You are honest, open, clear and to the point - regardless of subject - and you do it without anyone having to feel a lance or other sharp, piercing words.

    You always find a way to acknowledge, express & portray the truth of *intention* - which I am sure you continue to pass on to students by example.

    Two of your Favorite Books are already on our bookshelf (I *adore* The Dot, Jackson's big on Holes) and I'm hoping that your shelf will inspire him to expand.

    Thanks Gregory!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Anna! HMB is a wonderful school and I hope Jackson's grade seven year is SPECTACULAR!

      I always smiled when you'd stop in the office and say, "Have a happy day." I wish the same to you!