Jon Klassen (of I Want My Hat Back fame) is quickly turning into a master of minimalist, dry humored, beautifully illustrated picture books - think Leo Lionni but with an earthy palette, and a slightly twisted, deadpan sensibility. Although not at all a sequel to his debut, his new book is another exquisitely designed cautionary tale concerning hat-coveting fauna.
A small fish absconds with the tiny blue hat of a very large sleeping fish, and as he makes his getaway explains why he will never be caught: the fish was asleep when I did it; he probably won't wake up for a long time; or notice it's gone, or know it was me; and even if he does guess it was me, he won't know where I'm going; plus, it was too small for him anyway. Of course as all of this is shared with the reader, the pictures reveal exactly the opposite of what the tiny fish believes.
Klassen conveys everything with eyes and tiny bubbles. The eye of the big fish pops open with alarm, it looks up towards its absent hat, squints with displeasure, and begins his pursuit, leaving behind a trail of white bubbles. After the small fish enters his hiding place "where the plants grow big and tall and close together," we see the large fish disappear into the seaweed behind him, and the rest is left to the imagination. Although on the final page the large fish is asleep again, now wearing his tiny blue hat.
I'll say it again, absolutely gorgeous artwork (digitally assembled Chinese ink illustrations) and an utterly original voice in the picture book world. The restrained cleverness of the storytelling left both of my kids completely transfixed. This is Not My Hat hits bookstores October 9th.
• Find it: This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, 2012)
(THIS IS NOT MY HAT. Copyright © 2012 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. Photos: Ben Partridge)
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