Wednesday, 16 May 2012

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen

I Want My Hat BackJon Klassen is a literary genius. I Want My Hat Back follows the bear of the front cover as he meets and asks various different animals whether they've seen his hat.

The story is simply presented, with short, clear sentences on one page and a matching illustration opposite. This simplicity is just great for small children, with its repetitive style and the different coloured inks for the different animals, but the real genius lies in (a) the twist in the tale, and (b) the way that this twist is presented through the interaction of the words and the pictures - without looking at both, the reader wouldn't get the joke, because the words say one thing while, in the case of the twist, the picture says something different.

It's just brilliant. Whilst being simple, this particular interaction of words and pictures also makes it very sophisticated. I've had a couple of comments from customers in the bookshop to the effect that the pictures aren't very colourful and for that reason they haven't gone for my recommendation. Granted, the pictures use muted colours compared to the majority picture books out there, but I honestly don't think that deters from the book. For starters, who says that pictures have to be bright and full of colour for children to enjoy them? They are quirky and full of character, and adding glitter would only deter from this and from the impact of the tale - and the simplicity of these images are what makes the twist so enjoyable. Secondly, anyone who doesn't buy this book for the reason of colour alone doesn't have much faith in the intelligence or inquisitiveness of their child.

Both the words and the pictures of I Want My Hat Back are equally valuable and equally enjoyable. Have faith in the power of the story and of its telling and, dear reader, whether you are young or old, you won't be disappointed.

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