The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

2013 Caldecott Medal Winner: This is Not My Hat

2013 Caldecott Medal Winner: This is Not My Hat
Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Published by Candlewick Press in 2012
ISBN ##978-0-7636-5599-0
Grades K and up

Book Review

Do not steal someone else’s hat.

Repeat: Do not steal someone else’s hat.
Especially if that someone else is much larger and further up the food chain from you. Following the huge success of his 2011 Geisel Honor book, I Want My Hat Back, author/illustrator Jon Klassen revisits the themes of theft (of a hat) and retribution, all with irreverence and deadpan humor. In this year’s Caldecott Medal winner, This is Not My Hat, Klassen utilizes many of the same storytelling elements that won over scores of readers with I Want My Hat Back: minimal text and illustrations that still effectively convey depths of meaning, a subtle plot progression that still packs page-turning suspense, and compelling characters whose backstories are just begging to be imagined. And yet, This is Not My Hat is not a sequel to the other book, but instead a companion book with a twist on the whodunit tale. From the start, we know who did it since the miscreant is the one telling the story; we’re just waiting to see if and how he gets caught. This time, a little fish with a big ego boasts that he has stolen a bowler hat off the head of a mammoth fish and can get away with it. Beyond the story, Klassen plays with texture and light in his Chinese ink and digital illustrations to construct layers of meaning. Once again the eyes tell it all so that the dark resolution should be no surprise to attentive readers. A deceptively simple cautionary tale with a multitude of possibilities for extending into other classroom lessons, this year’s Caldecott winner is one that readers will enjoy over and over again.

Teaching Ideas and Invitations


  • Concepts of Print and Reader’s Theater. The fact that the text of the book contains only dialogue makes it ripe for reader’s theater activities. However, the text is actually a monologue, with nobody else except the little fish doing the talking. Additionally, Klassen does not always punctuate sentences conventionally, which makes determining what kind of sentence each is and how it should be read aloud a worthwhile exercise for students as they prepare their reader’s theater performance. Have your students practice reading the story aloud in small groups and then perform a reader’s theater version of it in different voices and with different intonation to hear all the ways it can be read aloud fluently. 

K and up 

  • Duet. Pair This is Not My Hat with I Want My Hat Back. How are both characters are purpose driven, but different in their stories and motivation? How do the moods of the two books compare and contrast with one another? What else do you notice that’s similar and different about the text and illustrations? Use these questions as entry points to a larger discussion about character perspective and Klassen’s writing and artistic style. See our Teaching with Text Sets entry to learn more about the Duet Model, as well as our entry on I Want My Hat Back
  • Inferring Character and Plot through Illustration. Before reading this book with students, do a picture walk of the illustrations, emphasizing that attention must be paid to the characters’ eyes. What do they notice about each animal’s gaze? At whom is each animal looking? What inferences can they make about the personality of each? How does Klassen also use color to convey tone and mood? Finally, make sure that students look closely at the final three wordless double-page spreads to determine what happens in the story that isn’t narrated or revealed directly through the text? Some of the texts listed below in Further Explorations, such as Officer Buckle and Gloria and Wolves are also useful for teaching how important content is conveyed only through illustration. 
  • Jon Klassen Illustrator Study. Gather all of the picture books illustrated by Jon Klassen. Survey his illustrations, and identify his artistic style, his artistic idiosyncrasies, and favorite artistic media to use. Other questions you might explore include the following: How does the work he does with other authors compare to the work he writes and illustrates on his own? What themes emerge in his illustrations? How does he convey humor in his illustrations? If you’re unable to procure all the picture books, you can use the photos of Klassen’s book illustrations found on his website (see Further Explorations below). 
  • Eyes in Art. As the old adage goes, the eyes are the window to the soul. Like many artists throughout time, Klassen reveals much of his subjects’ emotions and thoughts through their eyes. Share some famous artwork in which the eyes are a telling focus for interpretation. For example, Peter Paul Rubens’ The Straw Hat, Frans Hals’ Buffoon with Lute and Gypsy Girl, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa invite viewers to go beyond the surface picture to speculate what each subject may really be thinking and feeling. Then study the eyes in Klassen’s artwork throughout his picture books, and have students infer the characters’ stories beyond the surface of the page. See Further Explorations below for links to the paintings listed above. 


  • Thematic Study on Irony. Irony is a tough concept for many students to grasp and therefore isn’t usually taught until middle school or high school. If your students are ready to learn about irony, gather a text set of picture books and short stories about irony. You might want to stick to a single definition of irony or introduce the different types of irony that can be found in literature: verbal irony, situational irony, and dramatic irony. How to Lose All Your Friends, by Nancy Carlson, can be used to explain verbal irony. Chris Van Allsburg’s The Sweetest Fig, William Bee’s Beware of the Frog, and I Want My Hat Back work well for situational irony. Use Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!, Emily Gravett’s Wolves, Peggy Rathman’s Officer Buckle and Gloria, and of course This is Not My Hat for dramatic irony. See the Further Explorations section for more picture book titles that highlight irony. 

Further Explorations 

Online Resources

Jon Klassen’s website

Jon Klassen’s blog

Jon Klassen’s tumblr

This is Not My Hat book trailer

The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci–-portrait-lisa-gherardini-wife-francesco-del-giocondo

The Straw Hat, by Peter Paul Rubens

Laughing Cavalier, by Frans Hals


Bee, W. (2008). Beware of the frog. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Carlson, N. (1997). How to lose all your friends. New York: Puffin.

Donaldson, J. (1999). The gruffalo. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.

Dr. Seuss. (1954). Horton hears a who! New York: Random House.

Gravett, E. (2006). Wolves. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Rathman, P. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Van Allsburg, C. (1993). The sweetest fig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

Willems, M. (2003-present). Pigeon series. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.

Grace Enriquez About Grace Enriquez

Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.