Written and Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2012
Awards: Caldecott Medal (2013)
This is not my hat. I just stole it.
The plot in a nutshell: A little fish steals a bigger fish’s hat and feel pretty confident that he is getting away with the crime.
This darkly comic book is the most recent book to win the Caldecott Medal. It’s a sequel (of sorts) to author/illustrator Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back, which tells a similar story, but from a different point of view. In that story, we take the perspective of the victim, whereas in this one, we are seeing the story from the eyes of the thief. This, of course, means we have to take everything he says with a grain of salt, as thieves are not generally thought of as reliable storytellers.
A large part of this story is carried by the artwork, especially as the pictures tell us what’s honestly happening behind the not-quite-factual version we’re hearing from the fish. The artwork features Chinese ink illustrations in shades of brown, grey and green, that are digitally assembled and placed against a black backdrop that represents the deep sea where all of our action takes place.
The end is where the story turns a little dark, with the little fish thief paying the price for his underwater larceny. While the pictures don’t tell you exactly what happens, it isn’t hard to imagine the worst. If you’re firmly of the opinion that the little fish is treated a bit too harshly, feel free to interpret the ending in a more positive way. Otherwise, you can read it to your kids and feel pretty sure it’ll deter them from pinching that Nestle Crunch bar at the corner store.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, even if you’re fairly certain nobody saw you do it, that bad thing you did can still find a way to catch up with you in the end.