Monday, November 19, 2012

30 Days of Picture Books - This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Happy Monday! It's Day 19 of Picture Book Month. Today I'm reminded that picture books, and children's stories as a whole, are not always wrapped in sunshine and rainbows. Lest we forget, the storytelling tradition has its roots in tales like those by the Brothers Grimm and we all know that those boys didn't skimp on the tough love, with lessons taught through some gruesome details. Sure, nowadays we like to protect our little darlings from the more graphic aspects of those old tales -- seriously, some of that stuff scares even me -- but it can't all be pure happiness, can it?

If you don't mind a little edge to your picture books, today's pick is going to be right up your alley. Of all the books we've read together as a family, this is easily my husband's favorite, but Sprout and I also find it wickedly funny. I must say that we don't find this book scary in any way, but it is a slice of the subversive, so be ye warned, okay?

So, on to the catch of the day (fish humor! you'll get it in a minute): Jon Klassen's slyly funny This is Not My Hat. First off, this is not a followup to his smash hit I Want My Hat Back, though if you're familiar with that story this is in a very similar vein. No, this time we have at the center of the tale a fish who has just committed a crime. He's stolen a rather jaunty bowler hat from a slumbering whale who's about 1000 times his size. No problem, though, as our narrator is pretty sure he's going to get away with the theft. After all the big fish won't wake up and he'll never figure out who took the hat. . .

Talk about your unreliable narrators -- our little fish friend is just about the king of them. Preschoolers on up will love the disconnect between what our narrator tells us and what we see going on in the illustrations. Klassen's the master of few words, saying more with his slight narrative and expressively moody illustrations than some authors say with entire series. He's also got a gift for dark humor, which we particularly love. Don't be too put off by that though, as you can talk through with your kids what they think happens at the end. In fact I think this title, as well as its companion, provide a great opportunity to teach our kids that words and actions don't always match up, or to put it another way, you can't always believe what you read. Plus then there's also that little bit about how you rarely get away with things, even when you're sure you will. Life lessons, people, life lessons.

When you want something with a tad more edge than the usual picture book fare, check out This is Not My Hat and its predecessor, I Want My Hat Back. But don't say we didn't warn you.

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, published by Candlewick Press (they believe in picture books!)

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