Property Rights: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
BEAR: "MY HAT IS GONE.
HAVE YOU SEEN MY HAT?
BEAR: "OK. THANK YOU ANYWAY."
A bare-headed bear asks one animal after another--Fox, Turtle, Snake, Armadillo--if he has seen the missing hat. Fox, a man of few words, is laconic; Turtle goes off-topic, remarking that he's been busy trying to climb a rock, and Bear helpfully gives him a boost to the top. Snake On A Limb gives irrelevant information, pointing out that he saw a hat once, a blue and round one.
Bear moves on to question Armadillo, who is no help either.
ARMADILLO: "WHAT IS A HAT?"
Reliable witnesses are in short supply, it seems. Only Rabbit, wearing a peaked red cap, has much to say, and his loquacious reply doth protest too much.
RABBIT: "I DIDN'T STEAL IT!"
Deer, however, has the good sense to ask for a description of the missing chapeau, and as Bear is describing his hat, red and pointed, he suddenly remembers on whose head he has just seen that cap.
Jon Klassen gently draws the veil over the probable conclusion of this crime and punishment story, but young readers will chuckle at Bear's own quiet disclaimer ("I wouldn't eat a rabbit,"), assuming that justice--and nature--have taken their course, as Bear moves off the final page, his red hat restored to its rightful head.
Klassen's just published I Want My Hat Back (Candlewick, 2011) has wowed the reviewers and the public as well, judging by its best-selling status among new picture books. With its ironic understatement, expressive but minimalist drawings, and its wry humor, Klassen's work recalls classics by William Steig, Roald Dahl, and Mo Willems, and in his first outing as solo author-illustrator, Klassen has himself a hit.
Publishers Weekly says it succinctly: "A noteworthy debut," while the New York Times reviewer goes all out: "This is a charmingly wicked little book and the debut of a promising writer-illustrator talent."
Ed. Note: I wrote this review on November 5 and apparently forgot to publish it. Since this book was named a Caldecott Honor book yesterday, it seems that the reviewers called this one about right.