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We received this book from a cousin in America and I think it is absolutely brilliant. Its a childrens book but it is such a clever, funny, brilliant story that adults can really appreciate the dry humour in it as well.
In America it has been named a #1 New York Times Bestseller, a New York Times book review best illustrated children's book of the year and an E. B. White read aloud award winner.
The book is entitled I Want My Hat Back and it features a bear who is looking for his hat. On the inside flap it tells you a little bit about the story. "A bear has lost his hat. What if he never sees it again? Wait! He had seen his hat.....
The bear goes on a little journey looking for his hat and along the way he meets various animals like a rabbit, a snake and a turtle. The sentences are subtle but effective and their shortness makes for quite a funny story. The bear is very polite and after he asks each animal if they have seen his hat and they reply no he says, "Ok. Thank you anyway."
The bear gets to the end of the book without finding his hat but then he thinks back and remembers that he has seen his hat, it was on the head of the pesky little rabbit who said to him, "No. Why are you asking me. I haven't seen it. I haven't seen any hats anywhere. I would not steal a hat. Don't ask me any more questions."
Then, in a funny turn of events at the end of the book the squirrel asks the bear if he has seen a rabbit wearing a hat and he replies, "No. Why are you asking me. I haven't seen him. I haven't seen any rabbits anywhere. I would not eat a rabbit. Don't ask me any more questions."
I think it's terribly funny and very clever and even though my kids probably don't get the irony of the story right now they just enjoy reading about the bear trying to find his hat.
The illustrations are definitely befitting of the book and the quirky story. The bear is not your typical cute and cuddly bear that you see in most children's books, he is more strange looking but as he is a bit of a funny fellow anyway I think it works with the story. What I like about the text is that in places it is black and bold but then when the animals respond to the bear, their words are in red and I think this is a really nice contrast. The hat in the story is also red and really the only colours in this book and red and brown so they are effective colours when talking about the hat.
A wonderful book that both children and adults can enjoy!
I wish to begin this review with a warning that it will contain spoilers. This is a children's book with a very unique ending and you will either love or hate this book based on your reaction to the ending. I chose this book specifically because I had read how it ended and thought my children would find this amusing - but other children may be upset by this. Each parent knows their own child best so you'll have to consider how your child will react.
At first glance this appears to be a book for very young children. It is very simple, with large bold text which is double spaced on a white background. The vast majority of the text is in black, but a limited amount is in red for emphasis. Most of the words are very easy words to read such as "hat", "look" and "please". There is quite a lot of repetition, and there are only 68 different words used to create this whole story. This makes it ideal for beginning readers, and I would compare this with Oxford Reading Tree level 2 or perhaps 3. The most challenging words in this book were "pointy", "excuse" and "questions", but even if your child is unfamiliar with these words, the vast majority of the words will be familiar to any child who is beginning to read - so you can easily point out the 3 most difficult words. As far as reading level, I would put this at age 5 - possibly even age 4 and feel this would be easier for a new reader than even the easiest of Dr Seuss books.
But as simple as this story sounds - the humour is far more advanced. I found this book amusing myself,and both my 4 year old and 7 year old had a good laugh. Because this book has a unique - if slightly twisted approach I feel this book would be perfect for older children who struggle to read more advanced books but feel embarrassed or bored with traditional picture books.
The story itself is quite simple. Bear has lost his hat - and he wants it back. Bear is a good natured fellow. He politely asks each animal he meets if they have seen his hat, and helps others where he can. Most of the animals reply that they haven't seen his hat. One asks what a hat is. Only one answers quite rudely. Rabbit's lines are in red as he angrily replies that he hasn't seen it - he wouldn't steal a hat and why is Bear asking him? Bear walks away politely but later realises Rabbit was wearing a red and pointy hat. Bear's hat was red and pointy. A very angry Bear runs back shouting "You stole my hat!"
The next scene shows a very happy bear wearing his hat. But when squirrel asks if he has seen a rabbit wearing a hat he replies angrily - in red that he has not. He has not seen any rabbits anywhere. He would not eat a rabbit. "Don't ask me anymore questions" he says.
This is one of those books you just have to get very involved in reading - shouting and taking the huff when reading the conversations in red. It would easily adapt to a play for beginning readers. My sons love the arguing, but especially the realisation that bear has eaten rabbit. Other children might not find this nearly so amusing though.
We have a vast collection of books, and there is nothing wrong with having some that are very sweet and cute. But some children get tired of sweet and cute - especially boys and I feel this puts many off books. I very actively search for books that break the stereotypes of typical children's stories. My own made up stories at bedtime often result in humorous deaths. I realise some people will find this type of story completely inappropriate for young children, but it is all a matter of taste. I cater to my children's taste rather than my own as I do want them to be share my love of reading.
In addition to being a fun story - this book can serve as useful conversation starter on all sorts of topics. We discussed the idea of stealing which is wrong - but does it justify murder? We decided that anyone foolish enough to steal from a nd then further provoke a large bear had it coming for foolishness -but how else could the bear have handled it? How about the rabbit?
We also discussed the idea of protesting too much - why did the rabbit react so angrily to the question? His reaction was so extreme because he has a guilty conscience. Does this apply with children? Why do we feel angry when we know we have done something wrong? How does this make the other person feel? "The rabbit doth protest too much methinks" is already becoming a common line in our house.
Because this is an illustrated book - I feel I must mention the illustrations. They are very simple and somewhat crude. There is no real background scenery. Each illustration has one or two animals, and perhaps a small plant on a cream coloured background. I can't say that these pictures are extremely complex - but they have their own charm and we did enjoy them. In contrast to most modern illustrations for young children that have busy pictures with bold colours and plenty of activity - these appear to be purposely understated.
This book sells for £5.24 new and delivered from Amazon. I paid £4.95 5 for this from the new book depository. Used copies also start at £4.95 from Amazon and can go for much higher on Ebay. My copy is pareback but a hardback copy can be purchased from Amazon for £8.03 - again used copies sell for almost as much if not more than new ones so there really isn't much point in buying used in this case.
*** Somewhat off topic - but if any one knows of any more children's books with such a twisted sense of humour - please message me. I do have a few macabre children's books but not nearly enough.
I work in the children's section of a well-known UK book store and because I am training to be a teacher I take a great interest in children's books. My favourite kind of children's book/picture book is one that can appeal to adults too and these are invariably the ones I recommend in store because you can guarantee both child and adult will enjoy reading them together.
'I Want My Hat Back' is the first picture book both written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. With the simplicity and elegance of narrative style and characteristically quaint illustrations this charming book transcends age. The comical and yet simple story is a delight. The narrative follows a bear who goes in search of his lost hat resulting in a vengeful and yet arguably apt ending. With his deliberately understated humour and skillful characterization, Klassen succeeds in producing the perfect literary début. I think the humour appeals to both adult and children of different ages - don't be scared to read this to/with your 8-10 years old (I think they'll love it!). Among many achievements, I Want My Hat Back has been chosen as one of the New York Times' Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year. It has also been shortlisted for the Waterstones picture book award 2012.
I really think this is an author/illustrator who is an emerging young talent and I absolutely cannot wait for the follow up title 'This is not my hat'.
A really great read, beautiful illustrations and sharp wit. Lovely