The bookseller at my local store was frantically restocking after the grand opening weekend and was making room to face out Jon Klassen’s wickedly funny I Want My Hat Back. After I commented on the book, she said, “I’ve read a lot about this book, but I have not had time to read it yet.”
“Come on, it’s a quick read. I promise you that kids are going to want to read it over and over, ” I laughed. I sure as heck wasn’t giving away the ending to this book. And I am not giving it away here either. I would never deprive a reader that exquisite pleasure of reading a book and guffawing at the twists and turns it takes. These animators (I am talking to you, Mo Willems and John Rocco) who write picture books have a special gift of pacing. They know when to stop putting words on the page.
According to the copyright page, these illustrations were “created digitally and in Chinese ink.” Using a brown palette with splashes of muted greens and browns and red, Klassen matched the typeface color with whichever animal is talking to the bear. When the animals talk to each other, their eyes face out at the reader, giving everything a shifty, don’t-take-us-too-seriously look. And, when rabbit enters the story, the reader notices two things: a red pointy hat and a lot of nervous red chatter. The bear barely (couldn’t stop myself) moves until he collapses, mourning the missing hat. When a deer arrives, eyes meet for the first time and we sense the shift in tone. The page turn makes it clear—a red hot page with all upper case text: Bear knows where his hat is and he is going to get it back.
Here is what I think the committee will love: pacing, humor, use of the color red amidst the sepia-hued pages, the color-coded text, the thick luscious paper, the hilarious ending, the scene where bear runs to the left to back track the story, the standoff (told only with the eyes), and the sly resolution. I know they will love the end papers and all the design, especially the use of white space.
Will they like the ending? Will they share this with children to see what they think of the ending? (I sure hope so!)
You have to go all the way back to 1996 to find a truly hilarious book (Officer Buckle and Gloria) wearing that gold sticker. Will this be the year for humor?