Review posted January 8, 2013.
Candlewick Press, 2012. 36 pages.
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Picture Books
What is it with Jon Klassen and stealing hats? This Is Not My Hat is remarkably similar to his last year's book, I Want My Hat Back (which was also my #4 Picture Books Stand-out), while having completely different characters, a completely different setting, and even a very different hat! But as in the earlier book, justice is dramatic, swift and sure while at the same time off stage and mysterious, but highly satisfying. (Alas! Perhaps I'm more bloodthirsty than I realized.) And in both the occasion of said justice -- stealing a hat -- is a wonderful child-sized problem perfect for discussion.
Here are some ways the two books are similar:
1. A hat is stolen.
2. The victim of the hat theft is outraged and angry (as evidenced by their wide eyes).
3. The thief is much smaller than the one they stole from.
4. The thief is doing some lying, whether to others or merely to himself.
4. The illustrations are fabulous, with deadpan expressions and highly expressive eyes.
5. Both leave a delightful amount of room for children to draw their own conclusions, but I can let you in on a spoiler: The thief gets eaten. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)
In this one, the book begins with the thief fleeing the scene of the crime. He admits he stole the hat, but the big fish he stole it from was asleep and probably won't wake up for a long time or even notice that it's gone. As he says this, we see pictures of the big fish waking up and then noticing the hat is gone. The little fish has a plan -- to go where the plants grow big and tall and close together where nobody will ever find him. Well, he does get there, with the big fish right behind. You can't see what happens inside those plants -- but let's just say it doesn't look good for the little fish.
I love the page with the thief's rationalization (What a way to discuss Rationalization with children!):
I know it's wrong to steal a hat.
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.
And you know what? He's right! The hat does fit him just right, and is way too small for the big fish. But I still think this would make a great pairing with The Book of Bad Ideas. And what a fabulous way to discuss Right and Wrong with kids. Or, just to read a tremendously fun story, where drama and art and plot are all beautifully balanced with a delightful result. I guess there's a little kid who enjoys justice inside all of us. Or at least a person who enjoys a good story.