After illustrating the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series and working as an animation artist for the film Coraline, Jon Klassen makes his author debut in the sly picture book I Want My Hat Back. The title says it all for one bear, who walks through a forest asking a fox, a frog, a turtle, a snake and other woodland animals if they have seen his red pointy hat. While the bear doesn’t seem to notice, children will note the rabbit’s suspicious behavior. “I haven’t seen any hats anywhere. I would not steal a hat,” he replies. “Don’t ask me any more questions.”
The story, told in dialogue represented by contrasting colors, features understated digital illustrations in muted colors with minimal grass and leaves as the backdrop. The humor is far more subtle than Mo Willem’s Pigeon books or Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel, but that’s what gives this story its power. The bear, who is just about to give up his search, turns wide-eyed and the background red when he realizes that he did see one of the animals with his hat. A wry twist lets children use clues from the trampled leaves and the bear’s now-suspicious behavior to piece together what happened to the rabbit. Young readers and listeners will love being in on the joke, making them appreciate the story's humor even more.