Monday, February 23, 2015

I Want My Hat Back (Dialogue)

Title: I Want My Hat Back
Author and Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Publisher: Candlewick
Year: 2011
Word Count: 253
Top 10 Element: Dialogue
Awards: A Geisel Honor Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book

I am participating in Picture Books 14:14, a challenge created by Christie of Write Wild that encourages bloggers to review 14 picture books in 14 days, starting on Feb. 14th.

If you have not yet read I Want My Hat Back (or, its incredible follow-up, the Caldecott Award-Winning This is Not My Hat), then you are in for a treat. Bonus points for reading it aloud to kids too, as their reactions will make this book even more memorable.

Analysis: Dialogue

I Want My Hat Back is told entirely in dialogue, and author/illustrator Jon Klassen uses color rather than quotation marks and dialogue tags to differentiate the speakers. Our main speaker, the bear, speaks in black, and the rest of the characters he interrogates speak in red.

The patterning of the book is established early on. After bear laments about the loss of his hat, he sets off to find it. The bear asks each creature he meets, "Have you seen my hat?" With the response being, "No. I haven't seen your hat." The bear politely ends each conversations with, "OK. Thank you anyway." The responses vary slightly, but the interactions are the same.

Until we get to the rabbit. Wearing a jaunty red dunce-cap shaped hat on his head, the rabbit has the following response to the bear's basic question: "No. Why are you asking me. I haven't seen it. I haven't seen any hats anywhere. I would not steal a hat. Don't ask me any more questions." To which the bear responds, "OK. Thank you anyway."

At this point, the alarm bells should be going off in any reader's brain, and children's reactions to this page and to the pages that follow are priceless. In the famous words of Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton, "But you don't have to take my word for it." Read it for yourself.

Want more picture book analyses? Click here to read my other posts for Picture Books 14:14 or check out these other great posts for the Picture Book 14:14 Challenge going on the rest of this month.


  1. Oh man, I love this book. It's so funny, and a bit dark - which kids love, but are often not permitted. Great choice for dialogue!

    1. Thanks, Laura! Agreed. I love that it is subtle too. Kids really do a double-take when they get to the end. Ha!

  2. This book caught me off guard. I was stunned by the ending and had to immediately read the whole book again. Dark humor is tricky to pull off. Clearly, Jon Klassen has a knack for it.

    1. Definitely. I think kids have that same, startle reaction too.

  3. Love this story. As a matter of fact I almost chose THIS IS NOT MY HAT for dialogue too.

  4. Great choice for dialogue. Just saw this done for kids at One World Theater in Austin.

  5. A classic already...and well deserved. The elements abound, but truly dialogue is the king element here, I agree. Great review Katie.


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