Perfect Picture Book Friday: I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
This bear loves his pointy red hat. Who wouldn't?

No one loves subversive humor and absurd twists more than I, so imagine my surprise when I found both these things in a picture book. Who would have thought? Well, Jon Klassen, that’s who! And he’s given us all the gift of his dark tale of intrigue, loss, despair, and redemption…or is it revenge?

Possibly the oddest children’s book I’ve read thus far, it’s also one of my favorites for its pure silliness and its breaking-all-the-rules, devil-may-care attitude.

If film noir were a picture book, it would be I Want My Hat Back, with Klassen’s critter cast in the role of bear fatale.


[heading style=”1″]The Goods[/heading]

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Written and Illustrated by: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Candlewick Press (September 2011)
Genre: Picture Book/Fiction
Awards: 2012 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book
Ages: 4+
Themes/Topics: Humor, Loss, Animals, Helping, Problem Solving

Opening and Brief Synopsis:

My hat is gone. I want it back. 

Bear has lost his pointy red hat and he’s determined to get it back. He asks fox and frog and turtle and snake. No one has seen his hat! Bear is despondent!

Nobody has seen my hat. What if I never see it again? What if nobody ever finds it? My poor hat. I miss it so much.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Depressed bear.


But then deer asks a question that sparks a memory. Maybe bear has seen his hat!

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Run, bear! Run!










Links to Resources:

  • This downloadable Candlewick Story-Hour Kit includes several learning activities and games for the book.
  • Kids can make their own pointy red hats with this Make-a-Hat Activity Sheet at
  • Drama: This book is perfect for dramatizing as reader’s theater for older children (giving each child a creature to portray) or as a call-and-response activity for younger children (“Have you seen my hat?” “No!” and so on).

Book Trailer

Why I Like This Book: It’s hysterical! It’s genius! Besides the dark humor, I love that the book is written entirely in dialogue, but without the use of dialogue tags. Instead, the dialogue of different characters is shown through text color and formatting.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Helpful bear.

This style means that there is no “showing” going on in the text, and makes the action more immediate, as if we’re right there in the woods with all those creatures. My boys are still too young for this one, but I would imagine kids would get a big kick out of helping bear find his hat, especially in one scene in particular…but I won’t give it away.

The text itself is simple, simple, simple, yet reveals so much about bear and each animal he encounters.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Snake has seen a hat, but not bear's hat.

Just as spare are the illustrations, so witty and funny that they tell a story all by themselves. I like that none of the animals have mouths. That, coupled with all the white space, somehow creates a sense of silence and suspense, making the payoff of the last spread even more…

delicious, shall we say?

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Perfect Picture Book Fridays is a shared weekly event started by children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill. You can find the entire list of recommended picture books on the Perfect Picture Books page on her blog.

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  1. I LOVE THIS BOOK!! It is just awesome!! I love the look on the bear’s face and the fact he wears a pointy red hat 🙂
    GREAT choice!!

  2. This is one of the times I’m sorry I’m not in the classroom anymore. I love this book too, and want to read it to a group & make those pointy hats! I think I’m going to have to ‘borrow’ a class soon! Thanks!

  3. We just picked this book up yesterday and it is brilliant! My husband said it’s the best children’s book he’s ever seen. Probably because our household tends toward dark, subversive humor, too 😉 Awesome choice!

  4. If film noir were a picture book, it would be I Want My Hat Back, with Klassen’s critter cast in the role of bear fatale.

    That could be my all-time favorite sentence in a picture book review! 🙂

  5. I’m with Julie 🙂 I love this book too – so clever and dare to be different. I like the line, “What’s a hat” “Okay, Thank you anyway!” I suppose some people might object to the idea that the bear ate the hat-stealing rabbit 🙂 but most people seem able to see the humor! Great choice!

    1. @ Julie – Hee! This book inspires silliness, what can I say?

      @ Susanna – I love that line, too! He’s such a very polite bear. Maybe we should add “good manners” to the themes. Although I don’t think the rabbit would agree with us.

  6. I laughed my head off when I read this book at Barnes & Noble. It was such a refreshing surprise. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I didn’t spit latte everywhere!

  7. Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I must get this. It looks so cute. What a fabulous choice. Bear is just so doggone adorable. What a fantastic review. Can you tell how much I want this book?????

    Thanks for sharing this. *waving and smiling*

  8. This one has been on my list for some time. Your review reminded me that I need to read this book. The cover illo alone made me giggle the first time I saw it. I am so glad you added it to the list 🙂

    1. @ Jennifer @ Loni – Definitely put this one at the top of the reading list. I really think it deserves a place of honor just for being different (and fabulous in every other way).

      @ Margaret – Yeah, if the kids don’t get it, I’d just let eaten rabbits lie.

  9. Add me to the list of folks who love the dark humor of this book. The great thing about it, I think, is that kids don’t really find it to be dark. So it entertains both the adult and the child, but for different reasons. Brilliant!

  10. I just got this book in the mail as a late Valentine’s Day gift from a friend. I can’t wait to read it to my kiddos at bedtime. I think it’s going to become a bedtime book favorite.

    Renée, I also wanted to thank you for stopping by to comment on my son’s essay. He has been overjoyed to read all the comments and book suggestions. Thank you!

  11. Did I not comment on this yet? What a great choice! Marty Banks mentioned it at our local SCBWI meeting on Sunday…and I knew I had remembered seeing it on Susanna’s PPBF list.
    Thank you for a wonderful review, Renee. 🙂

  12. The library got this in for me. Oh wow! I can see now why there is controversy. I was shocked at first just by the daring of it. I loved it! It was different and not the typical children’s book. Yes, a noir is a great description. I loved the look on the bear’s face when he said. “WAIT! I HAVE SEEN….” 😀 Great book!

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