Monday, 10 December 2012

review: This Is Not My Hat

by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, October 9 2012
picture book anthropomorphism

A fish has stolen a hat. He knows it isn't his, but the big fish he stole it from probably won't notice it's gone. And besides, he's headed to where the plants grow big and tall, and nobody will ever find him. Ever...
The cover:

Simple, telling and evocative of the style. The placing of the fish slightly to the right, showing his getaway bubble path, is inspired. Also, fun fact: did you know that the dimensions of This is Not My Hat are the same as Jon Klassen's previous picture book, I Want My Hat Back, but rotated 90 degrees? That's awesome in my book.

The book:

All right, so it's no big secret: our fishy protagonist has stolen a hat. (At least he doesn't try to deny it, right?) Narrating his progress in one continuous monologue, the fish makes his way through the pitch-black sea, with only rocks and seaweed to ground our progress through the negative space. The monologue is as simple as the illustration, and as fitting: "I know it's wrong to steal a hat," the fish explains. "I know it does not belong to me. But I am going to keep it. It was too small for him anyway. It fits me just right." Those last two lines are so perfect. <3

As the fish talks, we're shown the big fish in question. His eyes roll up to examine his empty head, then squint suspiciously as our narrator blithely says, "I stole it from a big fish... he probably won't know it was me who took it." It's all in the details, and with Klassen's singular illustration style, they carry the story.

Another recurring aspect that Klassen manipulates very well is the linear progression of the story. It's a constant chase that keeps our eye moving naturally to the right. And then the climax arrives, a full two-page spread drawing a veil of weeds between us and the action... until finally we see the tail of the big fish swimming away to the left, back to where he came from.

And yep, he's got his hat back.

Rating: 4.6 out of 5