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Books are Like Old Friends

By Debra Orado

As I shelved books I rediscovered so many of my old favorites in our picture book section. Even though there are loads of new books with wonderful storylines, I found myself being drawn to my old friends and instead of shelving I sat down and began pulling books off the shelf, catching up with the characters. I had intended to highlight new books that you might want to check out this month, but I felt I needed to dust off an old series that has never ceased to make me smile no matter how many times I read it.  

Jon Klassen’s “Hat series” pulls me in every time even though I know the storyline. I feel like a co-conspirator, or part of the joke or mischievous trick, or the sleight of hand that he performs as a writer. As I read I find myself questioning and trying to guess what is coming next or telling the character what to do as I turn the page.  His books remind you of  a one-act play, in which each character has a voice and they are the focus. The first book, I Want My Hat Back was literally his first book and like the others is filled with dialog and banter. First a bear lost his pointy red hat. Then in This is Not My Hat, a small fish thought he could get away with stealing a big fish’s blue bowler hat. Finally,in We Found a Hat a turtle found a tall white hat that looks good on him — but it looks good on his best friend, too. While you do not have to read these in any order, it is considered a trilogy.

The artwork is simple and quirky while conveying the needs of each shifty eyed character you meet along the way. I remember how stunned the children were when they examined the illustrations. Illustrations can reveal so much about a character. Jon Klassen is famous for the subtle way he draws the characters eye movements. Just a slight change in the way the pupil is  drawn can uncover a simple untruth and emotions that action cannot. Those eyes are encouraging you to look closely and watch the action.  

I think what I like the most about his books is that he allows readers to decide what they think is happening.  His books always leave you thinking and wondering about what happened in the story. You may be left deciding what happened in the end.  This technique prompts great discussion and leaves room for a variety of interpretations.   

 If you have not read Jon Klassen’s books you are missing out on a very talented author-illustrator. His books have something for everyone and straddle a variety of age ranges.

Come into the library and check some of his books out.