Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Sometimes - no, oftentimes - the simplest books end up being the best books. Here is a 100% complete summary of I Want My Hat Back. Eh-hem...

1. Bear cannot find his hat.
2. Bear asks various woodland creatures, “Have you seen my hat?”
3. The various woodland creatures respond to the contrary.
4. Bear realizes that he has, indeed, seen his hat.
5. Bear gets his hat back.

Simple, yes, but it is in the pictures and the dialogue that I Want My Hat Back becomes a book worthy of repeated readings. Children will realize they have seen Bear’s hat before he does. One of the woodland creatures, Rabbit, appears to be wearing it. Oddly enough, it is Rabbit who is most insistent that he has not seen Bear’s hat. Rabbit insists, “I would not steal a hat” and demands, “Don’t ask me any more questions.” Eventually Bear realizes where his missing hat is, and the climactic confrontation and subsequent reunification of Bear and hat is where the fun starts.

Children will ask all sorts of questions and have all sorts of opinions. Did Rabbit lie? Did Rabbit steal the hat? Is Bear dumb or is Bear just not very observant? Is Rabbit suspicious? Is Bear suspicious? Is the resolution fair? When I read it with second graders, the reading took five minutes but the discussion was spirited, vocal, hotly debated, and twenty minutes long.

I don’t want to give away the end of the book, but it’s awesome. It’s clever, surprising, funny, and refreshingly different from what one might expect from a typical children’s book. Here’s a 100% complete summary of what you should do. Eh-hem...

  1. Get the book.
  2. Read the book slowly.
  3. Look carefully at the illustrations.
  4. Draw conclusions with each page, especially near the end.
  5. When you think you've got it - about 3 pages from the end - pat yourself on the back and smile at the clever surprise ending.
  6. Then turn the page and realize that you really never saw it coming.
  7. Repeat. With friends.

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