“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Circle of Life

Children's Author and Illustrator Jon Klassen

I had the great pleasure of seeing Jon Klassen at a book signing yesterday where he read I want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat, and Extra Yarn.  He is really a very funny man.  The children in the audience were in fits of giggles.  I wish I could get my hands on one of the baseball caps that two of the little boys in the audience were wearing.  They had “This Is Not My Hat” embroidered on the back of the cap right at what I like to call the “ponytail hole” and other than that they were solid black.  My kind of hat!

  I love Klassen’s books.  They are among my favorite read-alouds at the elementary schools.  I find the controversy over the “violence” in I Want My Hat Back downright funny.  Kids don’t see any controversy.  It’s grown-ups who overanalyze the book.  Kids watch The Nature Channel.  They understand that big animals eat little animals. 

When my kids were really little we used to try to hide dead animals when we found them outside.  Unfortunately, we have an outdoor “barn” cat who is quite a killer and it was a little challenging to hide all of her kills.  She was particularly fond of killing chipmunks when she was younger and the chipmunks were prolific in our courtyard.  We would often find several dead ones in a given day.  Well, several parts of dead ones in a given day.  My daughter quickly became accustomed to seeing dead chipmunks and they never seemed to bother her.  When she was about three we walked into her pre-school class one day and she announced “Cleo died three chipmunks today.”  After a bit of embarrassment on my part I explained that Cleo was our barn cat and cleared up that there wasn’t some rampant human going around killing chipmunks at our house.

My point is that kids are not flustered by animals eating animals.  They certainly aren’t flustered by the completely non-graphic depiction in I Want My Hat Back.  I Want My Hat Back is FUNNY.  The bear goes through so much emotion in such a funny way.  It is classic humor.  OK.  Maybe in a way it is Three Stooges humor.  But it is funny.
I am truly amazed that This Is Not My Hat is able to pull off the same concept so cleverly.  It is almost a reverse order.  Again, the concept of big eats little is easy for kids to accept, although I found it interesting that some of the kids in our audience thought that the little fish survived.  I think that’s OK.  Hey, whatever a reader concludes is OK.  Same with the rabbit as far as I’m concerned.  If you think he ran away into the forest in fear, go for it.  The bear and the big fish got their hats back, that’s what’s important.  Stealing is bad.

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