A couple of years ago, I was going about my Sunday chores and listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. A writer of children’s books myself and a lover of children’s literature in general, my ears always perk up when Daniel Pinkwater comes on the show to discuss a new children’s book. The one he selected for this program was I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.
I was captivated by the deceptively simple story and delighted in Simon and Pinkwater’s animated reading of the book and their descriptions of Klaussen’s illustrations. It seemed to me to strike the right balance of humor and a bit of angst, just right for the 4-to-8 year old set. (You can listen to that broadcast here.)
Of course, I wasn’t alone in my delight. Klaussen’s book went on to become a #1 New York Times bestseller, winning a place on its list of “Best Books of 2011, and also nabbing the Theodore Geisel Honor (Dr. Seuss) that same year as well.
This year, Klaussen followed his runaway hit with This Is Not My Hat, and again found popular and critical success, ultimately winning the Caldecott Award, the highest honor for an illustrated children’s book. In this story, a tiny fish comes upon a round top hat which fits him perfectly…and all will be well, unless the enormous fish to whom it belongs wakes up.
Hats and children’s books have a long history. Here are some examples which you might also recall fondly: