Crime and Punishment II: This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
THIS IS NOT MY HAT.HE WAS SLEEPING WHEN I DID IT.
I STOLE IT FROM A BIG FISH.
The narrator is a little fish, brazenly wearing a blue Derby, which he readily admits to swiping from a snoozing fish, who, the little fish optimistically opines, probably won't wake up any time soon. And if he does, he probably won't notice. And the hat didn't fit him anyway. And the perpetrator is swimming rapidly toward a kelp forest, where the big fish will never find him.
Okay, so there was an eyewitness to the crime. A little crab with big stalky eyes saw it all, but he has promised the larcenous little fish not to tell which way he went. It is an almost perfect crime. Except....
Except that none of the thief's hopeful speculations are actually true. The big fish does wake up:, he does look up to check out his chapeau; the crab squeals like a stool pigeon; and the big fish is off to the perp's hideout in the swish of a fin.
Crime will out in Jon Klassen's just-published This Is Not My Hat (Candlewick, 2012), a worthy successor to his best-selling chapeau chase, I Want My Hat Back (E. B. White Read-Aloud Award. Picture Books) (see my review here). Again, Klassen's darkly droll tale is a high point in the picture book genre, with his spare text and simple but evocative illustrations complementing the text exquisitely. Klassen's character's eyes speak volumes, as the big fish looks up to where his hat should be even as the naive little malefactor is speculating that his victim won't even notice the hat snitch. The big fish's eyes narrow as the hunt for the culprit commences, and the crab's bulgy eyes need only look page right to put the pursuit of the perpetrator into motion--and the outcome of this crime and punishment saga is no longer in doubt. We know which fish is going to swim out of that seaweed wearing that hat.
With a text of so few, but such well-chosen words, Klassen's illustrations create the tension and the humor that makes this picture book a winner. An artist who can telegraph the outcome of a tale subtly but shrewdly with no more than a pattern of bubbles is rare. As in his earlier headgear whodunnit, Klassen discretely lets the certain execution of justice take place off-page in a nod to the sensibilities of his young readers.
Receiving starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Horn Book for This Is Not My Hat, Klassen has the credentials to show that the success of his first book was no hat trick. A tip of the topper to a master of the art of the picture book.