Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Jon Klassen

Friendship is a central theme that runs through the following three books. Friends can help us through challenges and to solve problems. While working through our differences isn’t always easy, friends fill our lives with happiness.

Sophie and Friends is part of a touch-and-feel durable board book series for readers ages three months to three years. The story is sweet and the illustrations are cute, but there isn’t much to touch.  Sophie the giraffe and her five friends like doing things together: Lazare the cat lives to make everyone laugh, Kiwi the bird enjoys baking cookies, Margot the turtle loves to jump over puddles, Josephine the mouse likes to hide, and Gabin the bear treasures bedtime stories. Although some of the other books in this series have pop-ups and more textures, readers will still enjoy exploring the fabrics in Sophie and Friends. They’ll also like the fun adventures.

The simplicity of Jon Klassen’s design and the deadpan humor underlying his stories never fail to entertain. In We Found a Hat, two turtles find a hat. The problem is there’s just one hat, and they both want the hat. The friends agree that the hat looks equally good on them, but it’d be wrong for one to have the hat, and so the solution is to forget about the hat. Easier said than done! Aimed at readers ages four to eight, the story encourages reading independence with only one sentence per page. In addition, this 54-page story has been smartly divided into chapters, which heightens the suspense. The ending is perfect.

Readers of the classic Ramona books need look no further than Clementine by Sara Pennypacker for another lovably-rambunctious character. Clementine’s week hasn’t been going so well. She’s been sent to the principal’s office for cutting off her friend’s hair. Margaret’s mom has refused to allow the two girls to be alone together. The disastrous week is made worse partly because of the effort Clementine puts into making everything right again, including trying to glue Margaret’s hair back on and offering to sacrifice her own hair. Like Ramona, nothing Clementine does comes from a mean heart, but rather from a creative mind. Clementine is quirky, hilarious, and unforgettable.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Kids. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

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I first encountered Jon Klassen’s work while browsing picture books at Barnes & Noble. When deciding on what award-winners to feature this month, I saw Klassen listed for the 2013 award. Immediately, I jumped at the opportunity to review This is Not My Hat. It’s an easy read, with fun pictures that help forward the story.

This is Not My Hat features a rather brazen little fish. He’s sporting a hat that he stole. Not only that but this fish isn’t the least bit repentant. Moreover, he’s pretty sure he’s going to get away with his crime. Maybe I shouldn’t like this little brown fish, but I do. He’s so cocky and confidant. And yet not in a flashy in-your-face way. This little fish reminds me of the time our little Lhaso Apso ran right up to a dog three times his size. Not only did he run up to him, but he barked at him as if to play or perhaps to protect us. Well, this little fish stole the hat while the big fish was asleep. And now he’s boasting about it, but really you might too if you pulled off a heist against a giant. You can’t help but root for him. Or least wonder what will happen next, like in all delightfully tantalizing stories.

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Of course, there’s a problem with my parallel. Even if our dog was foolhardy, he didn’t actually act bad. The brazen little fish stole. That’s a crime. We might not want young readers to think theft is okay. The little fish might excuse his actions by saying it’s too small for the big fish. (And it is.) He might say it fits him just right. (And it does.) But the truth is he wanted a hat. He took it. And that was wrong. But…. I trust that young readers will have enough sense to just enjoy the story. (Like I did.)

Apparently, one of the reasons that the Caldecott committee liked This is Not My Hat is that “with minute changes in eyes and the slightest displacement of seagrass, Klassen’s masterful illustrations tell the story the narrator doesn’t know”. I’m not an art critic. I often feel awkward discussing artwork even in picture books. But I can tell you that I enjoyed the simple and soft-colored artwork in This is Not My Hat. Moreover, I loved the wonderful way that the pictures foreshadowed the story’s end. For example, all the while the fish is telling readers that he’s not worried about the fact someone saw him steal the hat, we are seeing that the lobster is a two-faced snitch. There will be irony to come before the final page. Watch the plants, the shadows, the bubbles.

Sometimes when I discuss literature with my students, I ask them why they think the author choose a particular medium. This is Not My Hat is a perfect example of how words and illustrations interconnect to make the picture book unique. Neither could stand alone to make such a perfect tale. Check Klassen out. He’s Canadian and he’s good!

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

JonKlassenImagine my surprise when I discovered that the 2013 Caldecott winner, John Klassen, is a Canadian writer and illustrator. After all, the Caldecott is an American award. Moreover, Klassen was born in Manitoba and grew up in Ontario, where he also studied animation at Sheridan College.

However, after his graduation in 2005, Klassen moved to Los Angeles. For about five years, he worked doing illustration and design for animation studios. While at his first book illustration job from Simon & Schuster, according to Seven Impossible Things, Klassen liked the book format more than he expected to and decided to try to make it a full-time job.

Some of Klassen’s notable accomplishments listed in Gallery Nucleus and Wikipedia include:

  • In 2006, he worked an animated music video by U2, on the animation for Kung Fu Panda and Coraline, and a TV spot for BBC’s coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
  • In 2010, he achieved international recognition when he was awarded the Governor General’s Award (which incidentally is a Canadian award) for English-language children’s illustration for illustrating Carolyn Stutson’s Cats’ Night Out.
  • In 2011, his picture book I Want My Hat Back was selected among the “10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books for 2011” by The New York Times. Apparently, there has been some controversy over whether the book’s ending, where one character kills another without consequence, is appropriate in a children’s book. However, I Want My Hat Back has also achieved considerable commercial success, and even became an internet meme when people started “posting their own versions of the story.”
  • In 2012, he won the Caldecott Medal for This is Not My Hat. It is not considered a sequel to his 2011 picture book, which also featured a hat. In the same year, Klasson also had the unusual fortune of a recipient of a Caldecott Honor too, as the illustrator of Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett.
  • Most recently, in 2013, Klassen illustrated The Dark written by Lemony Snicket published in 2013.

Klassen work at his home, in a medium-sized room with a tilted ceiling. According to Seven Impossible Things, he does a lot of random texture samples on pieces of paper, which are everywhere around his house and eventually get scanned into the computer. One wall is even covered in cork where he pins up things that he like. Dividing out pages, pacing the illustrations, and figuring out the visual rules of the story are his favorite parts. That same process goes for writing too, except here Klassen is also in control of the text too. He feels that so far, “it’s been a nice road”.

With the above credits, I would have to concur. To see more of his art, check out his Tumbler page. You can also return tomorrow to read my review of This is Not My Hat. Save the date: February 10!

How would you rate this book?


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Fall 2017: Focus on Cats!

All things cats ahead! I will post roundups of cat training books, cat Trap-Neuter-Release books, cat coloring books, and cat cozies. For all other animal lovers, I will also post roundups of dog cozies and zoo books.

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