I Want My Hat Back
I Want My Hat Back
My hat is gone.
I want it back.
Originally published in hardcover in 2011, the award-winning I Want My Hat Back has been reissued as a board book for a younger audience.
The simple conflict is established in the book’s first two lines: Bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. But did he lose it, just misplace it, or was it stolen? Readers are not told, nor does Bear describe his hat’s shape, type or colour. And so Bear begins his quest, asking, in turn, six animals the same direct question, “Have you seen my hat?” All respond negatively, with five answering succinctly. However, the third animal Bear queried, a rabbit, provided an expansive response.
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.
Had Bear read Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he might have concluded, “The rabbit doth protest too much, methinks". Instead, Bear simply thanks the rabbit, a rabbit who just happens to be wearing a red conical hat of the dunce cap style.
After questioning the sixth animal, a disconsolate Bear lies down while mourning the apparent permanent loss of his hat. While Bear’s in that state, he is approached by a deer who asks, “What’s the matter?” After Bear explains that he has lost his hat, the deer asks Bear to describe it. And so Bear begins, “It is red and pointy and...” before experiencing an aha moment. “I HAVE SEEN MY HAT.”
Klassen’s next spread reveals Bear retracing his steps, and the following two spreads find Bear confronting the red hat-wearing rabbit. “YOU. YOU STOLE MY HAT.” The last three pairs of pages reveal Bear sitting on the ground, the red hat upon his head. However, in the middle pair, Bear is approached by a squirrel who asks:
Excuse me, have you seen
a rabbit wearing a hat?
Bear’s response mirrors that which had been earlier delivered by rabbit and contains the ominous line, “I would not eat a rabbit.”
Klassen presents the animals’ conversations without the use of quotation marks. The speakers are differentiated by the colour of the font, with Bear’s text always appearing in black and colour being used for the other animals. As well, it is only Klassen’s illustrations, not the text, that identify the animal to which Bear is speaking.
While preschoolers will undoubtedly enjoy this board book, I do question whether this younger target audience will “get” what the contents of I Want My Hat Back have to offer, and, having “read” it, will unfortunately not return to it in later years when they might then see what they have missed in terms of the book’s richness.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.