"review" · comics/graphic novels · concenter · juvenile lit · poet-related · recommend · short story · Uncategorized

{book} open mic

Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices

edited by Mitali Perkins

Candlewick, 2013. (ages 12 & up)

hardcover, 127pages w/ “About the Contributors.” Library loan.

As Mitali Perkins observes in her “Introduction,” “humor has the power to break down barriers and cross borders. Once you’ve shared a laugh with someone, it’s almost impossible to see them as ‘other'” (x). Open Mic wants to tap into this power, employing ten gifted humorists to talk about growing up between cultures. There are prose and poems (x2) and a comic by Gene Luen Yang (ABC Chinese, Boxers & Saints), and even the comedic stylings vary so Perkins does a great job preparing for a broad readership–in other words, you can hand this to any middle-grader and they should find at least one out of the ten that will entertain.

Perkins does set down some rules, understanding that race can be a “tension-filled arena” (xi). It is a really good guide and includes a paragraph each in explication (which I obviously chose not to include below):

1. Good humor pokes fun at the powerful–not the weak.

2. Good humor builds affection for the “other.”

3. Good humor is usually self-deprecatory (note: not self-defecatory, although it can feel like that). (xi-xii)

A last bit from the “Introduction” on a hot topic in literature:

While I usually don’t like edicts about who can write about whom, in a post-9/11 North America, where segregation, slavery and even genocide aren’t too far back in history, funny multicultural stories work best when the author shares the protagonist’s race or culture. Funny is powerful, and that’s why in this case it does matter who tells a story. Writing that explores issues of race and ethnicity with a touch of humor must stay closer to memoir than other kinds of fiction on the spectrum of storytelling. (xii)

That said, none of the authors are White. Of the ten stories (a temperate number that hopefully hints at a series) Perkins includes herself and a brilliant variation of cultures w/ authors coming directly  (born in) or indirectly (generational) from roots in Mexico, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Palestine, India; Hispanic, African-American, or as G.Neri describes himself: “I’m Creole, Filipino, and Mexican–or as I like to call it, Crefilican. On top of that, my daughter is also German” (124). Many of the authors are well-traveled since childhood, and Debbie Rigaud is currently living in Bermuda.

What follows are brief remarks on the contents w/ links to author sites. One of reasons I love anthologies (on young and older shelves) is the opportunity to meet new voices and discover new reads. Many of these authors write Young Adult and, er, Not-Just-Young-Adult literature, like David Yoo who begins the collection with a good humor-setting tone, accessibility (read familiarity for anyone, including those of my western European ancestry), and insight the anthology is going for. The collection ends with some especially strong story-telling. (*=favorites)

“Becoming Henry Lee” by David Yoo (Choke ArtistThe Detention Club prose (1-13). 

This Korean-American protagonist is neither White nor Asian enough to abide by those (un)comfortable and ill-fitted cultural stereotypes. Besides dealing with public personas and private crises of identity (think school & parental aspirations), Yoo touches on festishization of culture, a step beyond mere appropriation. Big kid words, I know, but Yoo balances what even a young reader will understand as serious beneath that palatable guise of good humor.

“Why I Won’t Be Watching the Last Airbender Movie” by Gene Luen Yang. comic (16-9). *

first: Derek Kirk Kim (Same Difference, The Eternal Smile, Good as Lily) makes an appearance. Of course, the two are friends and frequent collaborators, but they also share a similar stake in what the comic is about. White-washing happens in multiple forms, as does cultural ventriloquism. Speaking up against this is of import for multiple reasons, and Yang offers a unexpected point to the story’s ending. A point of contention offers an invitation to engage (if not instigate) a conversation; what if it offered an invitation in return?

“Talent Show” by Cherry Cheva (author; writer & exec. producer on Family Guy) prose (20-30). *

Two students, a Jewish male and Asian female, await their turn to audition for the school talent show. It is sweet and funny and I can’t say too much because it would just recalibrate expectations: which is some of what the piece is about.

“Voilà!” by Debbie Rigaud (Perfect Shot) prose (31-42).

“Yup–I’m fourteen now.” I nod, squeezing the last bit of polite from my reserves. “And yes–both my parents are from Haiti.” […] I shrug. People have assumed this before–that I’m only half Haitian. Or at least, those who can’t understand how a person with longer hair or lighter skin could come from Haiti” (32-33)

Above illustrates just one form of misidentification that Rigaud explores; language and other popular assumptions make appearances. Rigaud has fun with miscommunication up until the very end both lamenting and finding humor in people’s ignorance.

“Three Pointer” by Mitali Perkins (Bamboo People, Secret Keeper) prose (43-54).

Three Indian sisters, of whom the narrator is the youngest, play the “Guy Game,” yes, it has to do with dating–and no, their parents who were arranging marriages and degree programs were left unaware of their antics (44). The premise facilitates also sorts of topics on cultural and generational differences and similarities in ways that educate and certainly entertain.

“Like Me” by Varian Johnson (Saving Maddie, My Life as a Rhombus) prose (55-68). *

“With about thirty students per grade, Hobbs is the smallest boarding school in Vermont. Our demographics are just like the state’s. White, white, and white.

“I guess that’s not fair. Technically Rebecca is “one-eight German, three-eighths Sephardic-Jewish, and one-half Irish.” And Evan has enough Muskogee blood running through him to be a member of the Creek Nation. Still, I didn’t see anyone looking at them when we talked about the Holocaust or the Trail of Tears last year in World History. But let anyone mention Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Will Smith or even the slightly black-looking dude who trims Principal Greer’s prized rosebushes, and suddenly I’m the center of the attention.” (57)

Now twin girls have joined Hobbs and the questions of relationships begin to surface. Seeing and not seeing difference is handled deftly while calling out those awkward conversations on stereotype, in-group criticisms, the jokes people tell that aren’t all that funny.

“Confessions of a Black Geek” by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (8th Grade Super Zero) prose (69-78).

I found the pop culture references amusing and was interested in where black geek and white geek might diverge or intersect. The seriousness, how personal, had a diminishing effect on earlier comedic tones at the close. Do not expect the stories to end on punch-lines, many have a heartening declaration like this one.

“Under Berlin” G. Neri (YummyGhetto Cowboy) long poem (79-99) **

My dad is black,/in a real southern way./But Mom is a light-skinned Hispanic/from Puerto Rico,/so I’m as black as Obama, I guess,/which is only half./My bro rolls his eyes. “Sorry./I meant ‘mixed American;” (83).

I am not awarding this one extra points for mention of currywurst, but the story of a family on the subway (in the literal underbelly) of Berlin is one of my favorites. It is rich with personality, like many of the others, but easy and playful, tender and smart, despite that “tension-filled arena.”

“Brotherly Love” by Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo and the Real World, Irises) prose (100-13). **

Touching on machismo and religion, sweetly and deftly, Stork is unsurprisingly pitch-perfect with this story about Luis talking to his sister. Sometimes that life between cultures is experience within a community and between generations and gender. This one is so well-done.

“Lexicon” by Naomi Shihab Nye (Habibi) long poem (114-21) **

“Half-baked, mix of East and West,/balancing flavors” the narrator speaks lovingly about her Arab father, about the power of words and perspective. There are some truly lovely images and lines: “words like parks to sit in.” “My father’s tongue had no bitch/hiding under it.” “But dying, this lover of life said sadly,/My dilemma is large. 

"review" · concenter · fiction · Lit · mystery · recommend · wondermous · young adult lit

{book} there is more than this

more than this coverMore Than This by Patrick Ness

Candlewick Press, 2013.

Hardcover 472 pages in 4 parts

More Than This is hard to talk about without giving too much away. I can’t even ‘tag’ the post w/ a genre as it would prove too suggestive. So I will do my best to keep this spoiler-free because it is a phenomenal book.

You can know that Patrick Ness’ More Than This is the story of a young man Seth who has violently drowned off the Washington state coastline and wakes up on the front walk of his childhood home back in England. The village appears abandoned, weeds grown up, few wildlife, no electricity, years of dust and decay. It is a place that his family had left behind when he was eight but it has always haunted them. The atmosphere is apocalyptic and it only gets more bizarre.

More Than This is a mystery novel as the events leading up to his death are slow to unfold and where he wakes and why is the work of the novel. Both lines of inquiry come together in the end, and both circle the titular longing.

“Worse, it had been accompanied by an equally hard lifelong yearning, a feeling that there had to be more, more than just all this weight.

“Because if there wasn’t, what was the point?” (132)

You should know that Patrick Ness writes one of the most tender and precious of love stories. One of the most exciting selling points of this novel is how much it works to diverge from the usual Teen fare. I think he expresses the depth of feeling many try to do without explicit sexual encounters better than anyone I’ve read of Teen fiction thus far. He impresses me further in separating romantic sentiment from the sexual act later on. 

There is also a lot of heartbreak. More Than This is difficult, and not only on a reader’s patience (Ness is unhurried). Ness deals in difficult subject matters. Skimming goodreads reviews, I saw mentioned more than once that this was an “important book.” To be honest I crinkled my nose at that. Now I owe some apologies. The final chapters are too sincere to be message-y as the journey realizes many of the sentiments before Seth shares what he’s come to learn. There are things young people should know (and heck, older readers could be reminded of), a perspective to consider.

More Than This has some heady-stuff, but Ness proves just as adept at action. There are some crazy chase scenes and a pretty terrifying predator. And the characters are marvelous. I would say more, but, again, I do not want to give too much away. Spared the first person narrator—how refreshing—the third limited observes a well-grounded protagonist. He is wonderfully normal and I especially dig the way his skepticism plays out after waking.

“It’s the kind of story—“

He stops again.

It’s the kind of story where everything’s explained by one big secret…” (237)

Or is it? Seth offers a lot of speculation as to what and how this new place works. Ness doesn’t try to hide the likely reader responses to the events at hand. He’s conscious of tropes, of popular stories and he works with them—and around them. What to believe and questions of where this is all going belong not only to Seth…and seriously, just how horrifying will it get?

This isn’t a novel you escape into. There is too much real life, too many ghosts. But Patrick Ness is brilliant, you should know that—you can expect that, but suspend yourself of anything else as Ness’ work is pushing against your usual Teenage fare, asking the question and understanding that there is more than this.


recommendations… boys & girls, 14 & up, who want to challenge some of the formulaic in young people fiction, who read literature, not just popular fiction, but for readers of popular works as well; for those who like good writing, are patient, and/or like puzzles. For those who like to experience love, humor, sadness, incredulity, anger, and human folly in a single novel; for those who’ve ever wondered if there was more than this—whatever the “this” is.

of note… find someone(s) to read this with.

though it is a 2013 read: the concenter-quality: a significant deuteragonist; lgbt

"review" · Children's · Picture book · recommend

means of transport

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Eighteen: Journey by Aaron Becker

Candlewick Press, 2013.

lot of notice has been taken of this picture book, so naturally I was skeptical. I discovered that perhaps, this time, there is something to all the brouhaha. Journey really is brilliant–not groundbreaking brilliant, but just story-telling goodness sort of brilliant, which is not the easiest thing to accomplish either.

journey becker header

When the young girl of Aaron Becker’s picture book draws a door on her wall, she does not encounter the pale man whose eyes are in his hands. No, Journey is an enchanting tale of another sort.

The opening scenes are all too familiar. The protagonist sits on the stoop while other children are at play. Family members are preoccupied in a pretty sectioning of an apartment.  The young girl will try to engage said family members in play, only to fail and end up alone in her room despairing. This is real life and many children know it.

She finds a marker–and draws on the wall. Be prepared to find drawn doorways on walls.

journey-articleLargeOn the other side of the door is color and wonder. Becker not only has her go through a door, but she is first in a forest, which, in fairytale tradition, is perfectly suited for magical occurrence. The girl moves from one transporting object to the next, ascending as the story progresses. At first she surrenders to the adventure, but is inspired to action even as her confidence in what she is able to do grows. The boredom demonstrated earlier long since disappears by the end of the book/journey; as does her loneliness. She finds kindred spirits and leaves you imagining what kind of fantastic adventure she will be off to next. You realize, of course, that you have been invited to imagine alongside her from the very beginning of this textless narrative.

Becker uses expanse to focus sequences. And he uses the space resulting from his wide-angled shots to not only make the girl small in her situation and isolated in a room in a frame, but you get that all-important sense of great distances. Our hero is about to set out on a journey.


You’ll notice the light shifting into a nighttime, giving you a course of a day, and that the girl is fairly texture-less, certainly without personality cues, unless the white tee and dull brown shorts suggest something I can no longer believe by the book’s end. Her surroundings (including other characters) are richer in detail than she. She is somewhat left to our imaginations, as well.

The set(ting)s are astonishing. I love the section work, and the airships, especially. You could spend quite a while narrating her adventure, and burn through sheets of paper for your own. Or go outside and take another look at the world you are in. There is a nice detail the the opening scene that comes back around for the ending, that encourages this sort of action. Too, where is the girl when she is off and literally pointing toward her next adventure?

journey coverJourney has this strange effect of bidding the reader to recline and dream, open that little door in mind and step through, while at the same time highly recommending that the reader open a door to the real outside and experience something new, and/or actively play out-of-doors your fantastical scenarios. However one can and will, Journey will inspire you to transport yourself in one healthy way or another–the first being in his book, with his delightful young heroine.

Journey book trailer

{images belong to Aaron Becker}

"review" · fiction · Lit · recommend · young adult lit

{book} blink & caution

Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones

Candlewick Press, 2011.

Hardcover, 343 pages. teen/ya fiction.

Blink & Caution is a great title, and I was not disappointed that the story and the characters so named were worth the intrigue.

Two street kids get tangled in a plot over their heads – and risk an unexpected connection. Boy, did Blink get off on the wrong floor. All he wanted was to steal some breakfast for his empty belly, but instead he stumbled upon [a kidnapping involving an important CEO]. Now Blink is on the run, but its OK as long as he’s smart enough to stay in the game and keep Captain Panic locked in his hold. Enter a girl named Caution. As in “Caution: Toxic.” As in “Caution: Watch Your Step.” She’s also on the run, from a skeezy drug-dealer boyfriend and from a nightmare in her past that wont let her go. When she spies Blink at the train station, Caution can see he’s an easy mark. But there’s something about this naive, skinny street punk, whom she only wanted to rob, that tugs at her heart, a heart she thought deserved not to feel. Charged with suspense and intrigue, this taut novel trails two deeply compelling characters as they forge a blackmail scheme that is foolhardy at best, disastrous at worst – along with a fated, tender partnership that will offer them each a rare chance for redemption.—publisher’s comment.

Need a break from the first-person narrative trend of young adult fiction these days? I couldn’t get enough of Tim Wynne-Jones’ narrative styling for Blink.

Oh, you think. A flock of questions come to mind, but the questions are too jittery to land near such a grumpy girl. So you turn the pages of the newspaper, looking for something else on the story, your story […] Oh, Blink, my smart friend. You have read more these last couple of days than you ever did in your life. Your brain is hurting from all the information in your brain box, flapping around trying to find someplace to roost, like pigeons scattered by a dog. (169)

The clever, quick and energetic flickering captures Blink. The images for metaphors drawn from his environs, just as the sources of his evolution as a character are. Caution’s narrative is a lovely third-person limited that suits the telling of her—a bit of distancing, a necessary watchfulness. The two narratives complement each other well, and as for the characters themselves? This is the kind of pairing readers will also find refreshing; although I was a bit concerned there with that ending. But you see the need for it. The length of the book travels some long and dangerous routes before reaching that end and its youthful (and not so youthful) audiences will likely be looking for that hand to hold.

Blink & Caution is the heart-pounding sort of read, Wynne-Jones making it very clear from the start the sort of peril each of his protagonists are in and that he is willing to keep them there. As the synopsis describes, the harshness of their existence, of the things they have and are going through place this novel firmly on the Teen/Young Adult shelf, but as jagged the edges are, many are allusions left to the vivaciousness of the imagination. It is the sort of read that lends itself to developing compassion in the reader rather than cultivating a gratuitous edge in a voyeur.

Caution is on self-destruct and what constitutes rock bottom for her is painful, as are the efforts and conflicts that draw her out. Blink is a victim of those intersections of rocks and hard places. Survival mode isn’t pretty and the human spirit takes a beating in them both. Of the two, however, Blink has this persistence of being that is hard to ignore. He is so vulnerable, so open to the reader and much of the world around him; yet not weak in any defined way that tends to illicit repulsion. He’s disarming. Wynne-Jones even manages to temper any sense of pity, favoring commiseration instead; which is well-crafted considering many of the readers will have experienced few of the actual circumstances.

However capable a good hero in these adventures should be, these two are tired, confused, and desperately trying to keep it together. And the investment in the story is as much about the Brent/Blink and Kitty/Caution as it is about that onward momentum toward the kind of disaster that they will risk their lives to escape—because they have to care about their lives enough to want an escape.

Other characters pepper the novel, some more attended than others but they live to serve the plot and protagonists. Some may call it neglect. I enjoyed the focus as the development of the protagonists is so finely tuned. Blink and Caution’s storylines cross in the present day, but the collision does not occur until Part II which is 142 pages in. Each line is compelling in it’s own way, weighted in it’s own way. Caution’s line carries her ever closer to the role she comes to play in Blink’s life and line. Blink’s drives the greater scheme of the story, the witnessing of a crime, an investigation, and the desperate grab for some profit from it. Caution injects the paralleling desperate bid for redemption, but redemption isn’t for her alone. And timing is everything.

Blink is my first love of the novel, but Caution, while appreciated before, adds another dimension of the wounded that is invaluable to the story. Add the “Afterword” on an inspired event and Tim Wynne-Jones’ thoughts about it, and you are further compelled to engage more than the heart-muscle. The novel wants to offer more than adrenaline with a touch of romance, but to dwell on the consequences of violence, intentional or no, victim or perpetrator. That he fuels his explorations with such determined characters offers a sense of hope for more than just survival, but redemption and a future happiness.

recommendations:  Blink and Caution is a bit Laurie Halse-Anderson contemporary fiction meets James Patterson teen adventures more heavily weighted toward a masculine version of the former. Wynne-Jones wields a fierce pen with Kitty/Caution, but his rendering of Brent/Blink is a point of adoration. The motel room interaction sealed it for me. I think Brent/Blink is the male youth that so many readers have been missing. If you are anticipating the eventual direction of your younger male reader toward Nick Hornby, Chuck Palahniuk, Joss Whedon, and Guy Ritchie, Blink & Caution is a good predecessor. For all the crap humans the protagonists encounter, there are some model-quality people and relationships as well. High school audiences & up, girls and boys alike, thrill-readers and drama-junkies both; urban dweller or no; for those who(‘ve) experience(d) broken situations or no.

of note: difficult to put down, especially after entering Part II. I stayed up to finish this one.

"review" · Children's · Illustrator · Picture book · recommend · wondermous

{book} this is not my hat

DAY 30

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Candlewick Press, 2012. ages 3 & up

I know I reviewed a Jon Klassen illustrated picture book, but I couldn’t resist this follow-up to I Want My Hat Back, a favorite of 2011. I was skeptical though. I mean, I Want My Hat Back was so good and was he just capitalizing… You will be delighted and potentially disgusted to know that This is Not My Hat is excellent in many ways similar to I Want My Hat Back, yet still its own.

A little fish steals a big fish’s hat. He isn’t apologetic, in fact, he is quite bold to tell his audience that he is going to get away from it. First the big fish will not wake up until he is long gone. He won’t know who took it, and the crab will not tell him where the thief and hat have gone. And the big fish will certainly not find the little fish in the forest of plant-life.

Of course, as he is boasting in text we see the opposite happening in illustration. No extravagance needed. And how does it end? Yeah, stealing is bad.

You see how the style is much the same, and there is a sequence of the big fish returning past the crab which reminds one of I Want My Hat Back, too. He returns with great color, density, texture and scale. But Klassen creates differentiation: landscape instead of portrait, black backdrop vs white, underwater instead of above, and the hats are shaped differently. Also the tone, the boasting as opposed to the query.

This is one to be experienced to fully appreciate, especially if you are needing a good laugh.

{images belong to Jon Klassen}

L’s review of I Want My Hat Back

"review" · fiction · horror/scary · juvenile lit · Lit · recommend · Tales · wondermous · young adult lit

{book} a monster calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Illustrated by Jim Kay

Candlewick Press, 2011.

hardcover, 206 pages (ages 12+)

I had been warned and still I read it before bed. I had been warned that hankies would come in handier than a well-lit room. That terror subsides for grief, and not just thematically.

While A Monster Calls is not what one would expect as a traditional R.eader’s I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) read it is perfect for autumn into winter. It has the ingredients of a RIP read: a monster does call, more than one actually, and there are nightmares, death, murder, witches, bleeding, and creepy tales… and there is an unnamed terror that when it comes to light you understand its horror, how it tormented the hero, how that monster could be more terrifying than the one inhabiting the yew tree. It’s just not chilling in the usual way, nor thrilling in any way other than the kind we find in a really well-crafted story. But it is one you shouldn’t stay up with while everyone has long since fallen asleep and all the lights but yours are out.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.—publisher’s synopsis.

A Monster Calls is a thin volume and heavier than it looks, paper and pages weighted for gorgeous illustrations by Jim Kay. Patrick Ness doesn’t need any more words than he’s found the spin truly impressive tale of a boy dealing with his single mother’s illness. Conor’s father has a new family in the U.S., his maternal grandmother is hard, there are bullies at school, concerned teachers, an ex-close friend, and a monster who keeps showing up to have a talk with him—but then, of all the people who would “have a talk” this monster is the most relentless—nearly as relentless as the other monster.

The monster who walks, who comes to call is ancient and wild. He has many names (34) and can take many forms but he prefers the yew tree (a very complicated symbol). The monster finds stories to be powerful and as wild as he and he wants to hear Conor’s story. Conor is not keen on the idea, but he bides his time as the monster wants to share three tales of his own first. The tales are exquisite and their outcomes baffle Conor. As they find correlation with the things going on at home and school, Conor’s life adds further consideration to the tales—and deepen the mystery surrounding Conor’s repetitive nightmare.

There is an aspect to the story that brought to mind Adam Haslett’s short story “The Beginnings of Grief,” it is where Conor seeks out punishment, not actively per se, but he actually looks forward to blows from the school bullies. He wants to see justice mete out in the tales, the more destructive the better. But he seems immune from punishment from others (and eventually all), who always counter with: “What purpose could that possibly serve?” The question follows the Monster’s tales as well.   A Monster Calls and its tale(s) talks also about power, isolation, (in)visibility, belief and guilt—and to what end? That is what Conor wants to know and what he is not sure is possible or even deserved.

Much of the pleasure of the read is not only the clever weaving of this tale, but the characters who populate it–the Monster and Conor foremost. For all the weight they give the story, the characters drive the action that buoys the story pursuing it with mounting dread–and increasing relief. The more out of control things seem to spiral the greater the optimism that it will all soon be over, one way or another.

I know I have not done my best with this review as I really hope anyone and everyone would read it, at least once. It has the dark and the mischief and the raging that is so extraordinary to experience in Patrick Ness’ writing.


recommendations: 12 & up, boys and girls, and not necessarily only someone experienced with or experiencing grief, fans of David Almond as he came to mind with this one; those who love tales.

A RIP VII read

{those loverly dark images belong to Jim Kay}

"review" · Children's · fiction · Illustrator · juvenile lit · Picture book · recommend · Tales · wondermous

I Want My Hat Back

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Candlewick Press, 2011

Hardcover, 40 pages.

The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2011.

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as the bear begins to despond, a deer comes by and asks a simple question that sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance. Told completely in dialogue, this delicious take on the classic repetitive tale plays out in sly illustrations laced with visual humor– and winks at the reader with a wry irreverence that will have kids of all ages thrilled to be in on the joke. ~publisher’s comments.

Possible lessons learned in I Want My Hat Back? No matter how polite a bear you are, the smaller animals will be intimidated. Believing that someone is telling you the truth is not a bad trait, but then, neither is using your powers of observation. Lying to a bear is not a good idea. Bears really love their hats. Stealing is bad.

The repetition and progression of the story is charming. A bear wants his hat back, he asks around. It is all simple and straight-forward. The text is big, the dialog exchanging colors with no bother for exclamation points or “the bear said,” “the fox said;” the majority of the book holds the text, uncomplicated, on white. Notably, the Reader doesn’t know what Bear’s hat looks like, but there is an interaction that reads “guilty!,” which plays beautifully into the final page.

The story and illustrations (digital & Chinese ink) are so quiet. The color palette isn’t blinding, the images unmoving, taking expression from the text. The images/text have a lovely balance in that while one reads tension (potential tragedy), the other creates comedy. The subtle humor and intensity builds into an enthusiastic sprint—until it stops and settles back into the tremulous moment and a cathartic splinter of laughter.

Travis Jonkers at “100 Scope Notes” writes, “Jon Klassen’s hilarious, deadpan picture book will be divisive. Not everyone will enjoy it. But those that do like it are gonna really like it.” I agree. Not everyone will appreciate I Want My Hat Back and its darkly comic ending, or maybe the fairly stark illustrations are not their cup of tea, but me and mine found it to be absolutely brilliant. Give Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back a go, and be prepared to want to take it home.


Horn Book’s review , 100 Scope Notes review, Pamela Paul at the NY Times review

Jon Klassen’s “Burst of Beaden” blog-site.