I Want My Hat Back

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This book. These tweets. That bear.

Irresistible. I Want My Hat Back swooped in fiercely this fall and won my heart big time.

My hat is gone. I want it back.

The cover and those first lines above say it all. That poor wide eyed bear just wants his hat. Have YOU seen it? One by one, the bear asks his forest buddies and while I will give no spoilers, the bear gets (and gives!) what is deserved. So well done.

Jon Klassen’s art and words complement each other so well. I’m not the only one who thinks so; he did win a Geisel award this year. And I have so much to say about both! Buckle in.

The story is carried entirely in dialog, yet he doesn’t use any quotation marks or dialog tags. By simply changing the color of the text, the reader knows that someone different is speaking. Although the bear repetitively asks, “Have you seen my hat?” and the reader quickly realizes that pattern,  changing the text color is still an effective and yet subtle design choice.

My favorite? The turtle. That slow little squirt just wants to sunbathe on top of the rock. And he says please.

Even the endpapers succinctly tell of the bear’s plight. Take my word for it, but the initial endpapers show a hatless bear, and by the end:

Ultimately, (bold statement) all of Jon Klassen’s successes can be wrapped up in his excellent use of space.

Despite its name, white space doesn’t have to be white.

Huh?

It refers to the empty space in a layout between various elements. White space can exist between images in an illustrated spread, words and pictures, lines of type or even between graphic elements and the gutter. And usually it makes non-designers antsy. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…white space is intentional and NOT empty.

Think about Where’s Waldo. Sure its entertaining and a good time killer, but so many images are stuffed on a page that you have no idea where to start. Your poor, tired eyeballs dart to and fro and never rest because the picture is so visually overwhelming. White space counters this. It allows for your eye to rest in an image and to know where to look. You can digest information with more comfort and ease. And really? It just looks better. Trust me.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be white:

Jon Klassen could have smushed all the animals into this spread. Or trees, clouds, aliens, or umbrellas…anything. Instead, he brilliantly matches sparse text with a bold graphic. Why mess up the words with a cluttered picture? Why mess up the picture with too many words?

{Answer: don’t.}

Though stark, his characters are full of emotion and life. Though few, his words spare nothing. Jon Klassen is a stunning designer; both his words and his pictures prove it.

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11 thoughts on “I Want My Hat Back

  1. I love what I’ve seen of this book, and I love what you have to say about it … and white space. As a magazine/marketing/etc. writer for all these years, I always struggle with executing the ‘less is more’ philosophy (after all, writing short is so much harder than writing long), but I’m a big believer!

    My girl may be long past picture book age, but we may have to pick up a copy of this one and put it on our books-as-art ‘gallery’ rotation….

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