cover image We Found a Hat

We Found a Hat

Jon Klassen. Candlewick, $17.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5600-3

Klassen's I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat stand alone, but they also form a setup for this tale, in which two turtles stumble upon a big white hat in the desert ("We found a hat. We found it together") and try it on in turn ("It looks good on both of us"). Klassen's artwork, spare and sly, tells a different story. The hat does not look good. It looks silly, as if the turtle's head were stuck in a plastic bucket. "We must leave the hat here and forget that we found it," says the first turtle, with fairness in mind. The other turtle's gaze shifts left. It wants that hat. Readers of the earlier stories will recognize that look; it bodes ill. Klassen divides the book into three distinct acts; in the second, as the turtles watch the sunset, the second turtle's eyes again stray toward the hat. Uh-oh. In the third section, the first turtle settles down to sleep, and the shifty-eyed turtle begins inching toward the hat, talking all the while to the first turtle ("Are you all the way asleep?"). Readers who think they know what's coming will be wrong: the conclusion doesn't involve sharing, peacemaking, or violence. Instead, Klassen considers the instant at which a decision to act can break either way, depending on who's tempted and whether anyone else is watching. In contrast to the first two books, which relied on a certain conspiratorial menace, this one ends with a moment of grace and a sky full of stars. All three stories are about justice. It's just that justice doesn't always mean the same thing. Ages 4-8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)