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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-07-04
- Reviewer: Staff
In his first outing as an author, Klassen's (Cats' Night Out) words and artwork are deliberately understated, with delectable results. Digitally manipulated ink paintings show a slow-witted bear asking half a dozen forest animals if they've seen his hat. Unadorned lines of type, printed without quotation marks or attributions, parallel the sparse lines Klassen uses for the forest's greenery. Most of the answers the bear gets are no help ("What's a hat?" one animal asks), but the rabbit's answer arouses suspicion: "I haven't seen any hats anywhere. I would not steal a hat. Don't ask me any more questions." In a classic double-take, the bear doesn't notice the hat on the rabbit's head until several pages on: "I have seen my hat," he realizes, wide-eyed. Readers with delicate sensibilities may object to the implied conclusion ("I would not eat a rabbit," the bear says stoutly, his hat back on his head, the forest floor showing signs of a scuffle), but there is no objecting to Klassen's skillful characterizations; though they're simply drawn and have little to say, each animal emerges fully realized. A noteworthy debut. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
A bear-y serious problem
After illustrating the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series and working as an animation artist for the film Coraline, Jon Klassen makes his author debut in the sly picture book I Want My Hat Back. The title says it all for one bear, who walks through a forest asking a fox, a frog, a turtle, a snake and other woodland animals if they have seen his red pointy hat. While the bear doesn’t seem to notice, children will note the rabbit’s suspicious behavior. “I haven’t seen any hats anywhere. I would not steal a hat,” he replies. “Don’t ask me any more questions.”
The story, told in dialogue represented by contrasting colors, features understated digital illustrations in muted colors with minimal grass and leaves as the backdrop. The humor is far more subtle than Mo Willem’s Pigeon books or Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel, but that’s what gives this story its power. The bear, who is just about to give up his search, turns wide-eyed and the background red when he realizes that he did see one of the animals with his hat. A wry twist lets children use clues from the trampled leaves and the bear’s now-suspicious behavior to piece together what happened to the rabbit. Young readers and listeners will love being in on the joke, making them appreciate the story's humor even more.