This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen is a funny picture book, and I always enjoy figuring out why jokes or stories are funny. So, where does the humor in this book?
Of course I don't want to drain the fun out of a great book, but this book is about how children rationalize when they do something wrong. (Adults do as well, though they should know better.) The main character, little fish, believes he won't get caught if he steals.
He tells the reader, "I know it's wrong to steal a hat/ I know it does not belong to me./ But I am going to keep it." After all, the hat fits him better than its big fish owner. Also little fish truly believes that his hiding place in the weeds is so good he will never get caught.
In general, humor lies in the gap between two different circumstances. One is reality and the other a comic premise. In this book:
Reality: Thieves are usually caught, in other words, crime doesn't pay.
The comic premise: Little fish's belief that he will never get caught.
The humor is in the gap between these two statements. How does Klassen fill this gap? His pictures show the reader that real retribution is near while the narrative of the little fish tells the reader that he is home free.
I love the ending which the author keeps mysterious, so the "gap" between reality and the comic premise is filled by the reader's imagination. What happens to little fish in this big fish eats little fish world? We delightfully aren't told.
And honestly, that's just fine because humor is only be funny if no one gets hurt.
The subtlety in This Is Not My Hat will keep parents and kids reading it over and over.
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