Read This: This Is Not My Hat

A new children’s book came out in October that I have been recommending to anyone who will listen to give as a holiday gift or stocking stuffer. It could almost be a coffee-table book.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press, 2012) is one of the funniest, most appealing children’s books I have seen in a while. For those of you who read Klassen's previous book, I Want My Hat Back, this is the perfect companion.

The story itself is short and very simple; a little fish tells us that the natty hat perched on his head is not his, but that he stole it from a big fish that was asleep. This shouldn’t be a problem, after all, the hat was too small for the big fish.

The little fish is going to hide in the plants so the big fish won’t find him …what could possibly go wrong?

Well… Big fish (so big he fills two pages) does indeed wake up and is sorely peeved his hat has disappeared, so he goes in search of it.

With 34 pages of art and limited text, this is a fantastic book for reading to preschoolers, and great for beginning readers, too. For those of us slightly beyond school age (ahem….) it is just plain FUNNY. The dark humor is what adults love, younger readers will enjoy guessing what happens next to the little fish.

There IS a moral — the first page has the little fish saying “This hat is not mine. I just stole it.” Which made my preschooler exclaim “Oooh, he’s going to get put in jail!”

As the story continues, it's interesting to see how children respond to the little fish’s excuses; the hat was way too small for the big fish, so it is okay to take it, right? Luckily my daughter supplied the correct answers, so I'm hopeful I'll never have to collect her from 201 Poplar for millinery theft.

At the end of the story, you can decide for yourself what happens; as the author leaves it unstated (or unillustrated, actually). Regarding my “all ages” comment, I really mean it; the paper quality and artwork throughout the book are first-class, and it is the fishes expressions in the illustrations that make this such a treasure.

Not that fish can BE expressive; the illustrator does it all with the eyes. In a three-spread sequence, the big fish goes from sleeping to waking to looking up for his hat, then to squinting at the escaping thief with a fishy, sort of “Dirty Harry” look.

In all three illustrations, his eyes are all that change, but it's amazing the feeling you get from it. If I didn’t have children, I would still want this book for my coffee table to enthrall visitors; so far every child and adult that's read it has laughed out loud. At $10, it is far better than some of the plastic stocking stuffers that will fall apart by Boxing Day, so go ahead….put something fishy in someone’s stocking.


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