At the end of January, the American Library Association announced the winners of its annual awards. The 2013 Caldecott Medal, the award for the best illustrated picture book of the year, went to "This Is Not My Hat" (2012, Candlewick Press; written and illustrated by Jon Klassen; ages 3-7).
Klassen, the author-illustrator of the 2011 bestselling book, "I Want My Hat Back" has given readers another funny tale in "This Is Not My Hat." Hold onto your hats, though: This book has a whopper of a twist.
The story is narrated by a small fish wearing a bowler hat, who informs the reader, "This hat is not mine. I just stole it."
As the narrator describes the very large, sleeping fish from whom he took the hat, Klassen's gray-toned illustrations show that very large fish awakening in the black water. The small fish goes on to tell readers that the big fish won't even notice that his hat is gone. However, the illustrations tell a different story. Off goes the small fish to hide in some tall plants, thinking he's safe, when ...
Caldecott Chair Sandra Imdieke states, "With minute changes in eyes and the slightest displacement of seagrass, Klassen's masterful illustrations tell the story the narrator doesn't know."
As the very big fish emerges from the tall plants sporting the hat that had been taken from him, it is up to readers to figure out what's happened to the story's narrator.
Five Caldecott Honors were given this year as well. One of them is "Creepy Carrots!" (2012, Simon & Schuster, written by Illinois author Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown, ages 4-7). This book tells the tale of Jasper Rabbit, who likes nothing better than eating the crisp, fat carrots in Crackenhopper Field. That is, until the carrots start following him. He hears "The soft sinister tunktunktunk of carrots creeping" and begins to see creepy carrots everywhere.
"There are no such things as creepy carrots," his Mom says. But Jasper knows differently. "Creepy carrots were real. And they were coming for him!" He comes up with a plan and fences in the carrot patch at Crackenhopper Field. He thinks he's won but behind the fence, the carrots cheer. "Their creepy plan had worked Jasper Rabbit would never get into that carrot patch ever again."
This clever story is complemented perfectly with Peter Brown's illustrations, gray-toned drawings punctuated by very spirited, very orange carrots.
The American Library Association describes the illustrations, saying, "Pronounced shadows, black borders and shaded edges enhance this ever so slightly sinister tale with a distinctly cinematic feel."
Other Caldecott Honor winners: "Extra Yarn" (by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen), "Green" (written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger), "One Cool Friend" (written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small) and "Sleep Like a Tiger" (written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski).
Alice B. McGinty (http://www.alicebmcginty.com) is the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children, as well as a writing teacher, manuscript coach and the co-regional adviser for the Illinois Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She directs a summer writing camp called Words on Fire for middle and high school girls.