"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Bermuda Triangle of Those Who Steal Hats...

2013 Caldecott Medal

One of the best parts of sharing the most distinguished American picture book for children, published in the year 2012, has been listening to and watching the students reactions to the book.

I have read the book with kindergarten students through fourth graders.  I no sooner get out the second line of the story, when the room is filled with comments, guffaws, snorts, and laughter.  The third and fourth graders straight out laugh hysterically.  Some of the kindergarten and first graders laugh nervously while others make comments, such as: "stealing is bad" or "that's mean." The second grade students react somewhere between the older and younger grades. I love this initial shock that the words, "I just stole it." could be uttered so matter-of-factly by the fish.

Reading the remainder of THIS IS NOT MY HAT is pure awesomeness.  It is so much fun voicing the part of the little fish while turning the pages and hearing the students reactions.  They love being in on the action.  They laugh, saying things like, 
"He's awake!"
"He noticed!"
"I think the crab is going to tell on the little fish."
"The crab pretended not to tell, but he did."
"Uh, oh."
"Oh, no!"    

All of this energy is met by silence when I turn to the two page spread of the place "where the grasses grow big and tall and close together."  

Some students in each class, with total glee on their faces, called out, "He ate him!"

I keep turning the pages of the book and then ask the students to share what they think happened in that place where "the grasses grow big and tall and close together."  

As part of this conversation, I ask students what we know for certain at the end of the book -- that the big fish got his hat back.  I point out that Jon Klassen has left this incredibly magical place, a space between the story and the reader, where the reader's imagination takes over. I flip back to the two-page spread of the grasses and ask them to share what their imagination created in that space. Here are some of the things I heard from my students this week:

"The big fish ate the little fish."

"The little fish swam too close to the weeds and it knocked the hat off."

"The little fish swam away very fast and it blew off."

"The big fish chased the little fish and they wrestled."

"He ate him and spit out the hat!"

"The little fish saw the angry eyes and swam away fast."

I love this space between reader and story, although it is becoming the Bermuda Triangle of those who steal hats...Even more than with I WANT MY HAT BACK, each reader can decide what happened.  Now, the fact that we don't see the little fish at the end of THIS IS NOT MY HAT doesn't bode well for him, but hey, maybe he swam away really fast....

Thank you Jon Klassen, for one of the most fun weeks of hanging out at the intersection of reader and story!


  1. Great post! I love hearing how kids' responses vary from grade to grade. Speaking of scenes left to the imagination: how did this little guy manage the heist without limbs or digits? One thing is certain: there is no cuter perp in the history of crime fiction.

    1. Oh, yes! No cuter perp indeed!

      I forgot that there were a few K students who wanted to know how the big fish got the hat on his head....#literalminds

  2. I dearly hope the little fish swam away fast (and the big fish swam under the hat, which landed gracefully on his head). Capital punishment does seem a bit much for the crime, cute perp or no. But would the big fish sleep quite so peacefully with a known hat thief on the loose? Much to ponder. :)...#myliteralmind

    1. Much to ponder, indeed! There was some real energy for the notion that the little fish swam away so fast the hat blew off and landed on the big fish's head. This said while others, with eyes' sparkling, relished the idea that the big fish ate the small fish. I love how this book allows for such a spectrum of thought.

      Maybe the big fish looked so content because he helped the small fish reform his ways. His community service? Reading cautionary tales to juvenile fish. :)

      I LOVE that sassy little dude.

    2. Thank you for that happy ending! It pleases the Isobel Crawley in me. There is something in this tale for the Tarantinos AND the Mrs. Crawleys among us.

    3. ...AND a Downton Abbey fan to boot! Lovely! I dare you to find anyone else who has mentioned the Tarantino brothers and Downton Abbey in the same sentence! It is perfect though. :)