Bear has lost his favorite hat and searches the forest, politely asking different animals he encounters if they have seen it. Just as he begins to despair ever seeing his hat again, Deer comes by and jolts his memory – he HAS seen his hat. The resolution is understated and sly, and adults will pick up on it right away; perhaps even before the children do. The book has won awards and accolades, including the Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor, but caregivers have voiced concerns over the implied ending being potentially disturbing or inappropriate for young children.
The Chinese ink illustrations are understated, as are the sandy hued backgrounds. Red is used to set off the color of Bear’s hat, and a change in emotion both in text and background. The endpapers set the mood for the story, with illustrations of the Bear and the animals featured in the story set on a dark brown background.
The book allows for a fun (and no doubt entertaining) discussion about the book’s ending. There are I Want My Hat Back-related activities on Candlewick’s website, including a printable world-building activity and a shape-identifying activity. There is also a Make Your Own Hat activity sheet that allows attendees to decorate, cut and tape together their own hat. For a bear-related read-aloud, decorate the reading area with toy bears of all sorts and encourage playtime afterwards.
Among the award and honors I Want My Hat Back has received are designation as an ALA Notable Children’s Books (2012), Colorado: Children’s Book Award Nominees (2013), Horn Book Fanfare (2011), Indies Choice Book Award for Picture Book (2012), Irma S. & James H. Black Picture Book Honor (2012), NY Times Best Illustrated Books (2011), NY Times Notable Children’s Books (2011), Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books (2011), Texas: 2×2 Reading List (2012), Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor (2012), and Virginia: Readers’ Choice Award Nominees (2013).