This Is Not My Hat
by Jon Klassen

collaged image, title superimposed

Jon Klassen's This Is Not My Hat

Book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-7

The humor in trying to deceive someone with more life experience

Chances are you've had this conversation:

Did you wash your hands?
Go wash your hands.

I clearly remember my own 5 year old seriously and (I'm sure she thought) cleverly inquiring, "How did you know I didn't wash them?"

Jon Klassen clearly captures this particular adult-child dynamic - child doesn't know how transparent child is - in the 2013 Caldecott Medal winner, This Is Not My Hat.

A little fish - unnamed - is happy to admit his transgression - not to his victim, but to his audience. "This hat is not mine," he says. "I just stole it."

Klassen's illustration depicts little fish in a little fedora making a run for it.

(I mean, swim.)

The next image is of the rather big fish that little fish stole the hat from.

Little fish thinks big fish won't wake up for awhile. Wrong.

He thinks big fish won't even notice the hat is missing. Wrong.

And little fish thinks that even if big fish realizes the hat is missing, he won't know who took it.

Very wrong.

The text tells us what little fish thinks. (He even has a rationale for his crime.) The pictures tell us what's really happening. The combined whole tells us an eternal truth: children have an instinct for deception long before they have the skills to pull that deception off.

It's a start-to-finish exercise in irony, and while lap-sitters aren't generally known for their keen understanding of this subtle form of humor, Klassen makes it simple and clear enough that they just might get the joke.

At the very least, they should recognize

  1. themselves
  2. their own attempts at cunning, and
  3. the typical outcome when they match wits with someone much older.

Parents will surely see themselves in the big fish.

This Is Not My Hat lets parents and children look not just at themselves but at their dynamic. For that reason, everyone is sure to find it great least until Junior does develop the skill to pull the wool over your eyes.

Maybe someday Klassen will give us another book to help us find the humor in teenagers stealing the car keys while we sleep!

More Caldecott reviews.

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