This is Not My Hat: Book Review and Activities

Good morning!

I have an old but "new to me" book to share with you today: This is Not My Hat!

I was looking at it in the library yesterday and by the time I got to the last page I knew this would be a winner with younger children.

A book review of Jon Klassen's "This is Not My Hat", with LOTS of ideas for discussions and activities.

Author: Jon Klassen
Publishing: Candlewick Press, 2012
Age Range: 3-8
Themes: Suspense, Humour
Awards: The Caldecott Medal

Opening Lines: This hat is not mine. I just stole it.

Synopsis: The little fish has stolen the big fish's hat and he's absolutely convinced that the big fish won't even notice! In the suspense that follows we soon find out if little fish is right.

A book review of Jon Klassen's "This is Not My Hat", with LOTS of ideas for discussions and activities.

Why I Like This Book: I just love how Klassen builds up a suspenseful story with just a few words and some very expressive eyes. Little fish is narrating the story, explaining why he took the hat, and why he believes he won't be caught. But everything he says turns out to be the exact opposite (cue the picture above).

The expressions in the eyes are wonderful. You can tell exactly how the big fish is feeling depending upon where the pupil is placed or if the eye becomes a narrow slit. I found myself laughing several times!

At the end of the story the big fish has his hat back, we don't see the little fish, and the narration has stopped. It seems as though the little fish has been eaten, and yet we don't know for sure. So I love how the ending is a little ambiguous.

Oh, I almost forgot the  crab. What a traitor -- haha! Despite leading little fish to believe that he won't give away little fish's whereabouts, we can clearly see that he does :)

A book review of Jon Klassen's "This is Not My Hat", with LOTS of ideas for discussions and activities.

Conversation Starter: I feel like I always say this in my book reviews, but the possibilities for conversation with this book are vast! The book can be used to teach point of view, prediction, inference, and the ethics of stealing and lying. Here are some ideas:
  1. Predictions: After reading the first page, stop and ask the kids for some predictions. "Whose hat was stolen?" "Why did he steal it?" "Will he get away?" "Will he give it back?"
  2. Continue reading the book, but be sure to slow it down a little and really build up the suspense.
  3. I'm sure the children will be gasping at the ending! Ask them "What happened to the little fish?" "Do we know for sure he was eaten?" "What are some other possible outcomes?"
  4. Do a second reading and this time really focus on the narration and what's really happening in the story. Do the children notice that it's always the opposite thing that happens? 
  5. "How is it we can always tell what the big fish is thinking even though he's not saying anything?"
  6. And here are a couple of biggies that will definitely spark some spirited discussion: "Was it okay for little fish to steal the hat?" "If little fish was eaten, did he deserve to be?" "Why did crab give away little fish's location?" "Was that the right thing to do?"
Book Extensions:
  1. Write about the ending. We don't really know for sure what goes on in those weeds. There are many possible outcomes, and not all of them involve a little fish dinner.
  2. Do a Shared or Teacher Guided Writing. Look at big fish again and for each page write what you believe he's thinking.
  3. Older children, say Grade 4 and up, could use the book as a model for writing their own opposite story.
  4. Talk about camouflage and have the children paint their own seaweed forests. Then paint a little fish and glue him onto the seaweed painting. See how well you can camouflage your fish.
  5. Draw some simple fish shapes but change their eyes in each drawing to express a different feeling. Label the feelings.
  6. Here's a free activity kit from Candlewick Press (this also includes activities from I Want My Hat Back).
  7. If you'd like to explore the issues of stealing, lying and trust then Teaching Children Philosophy has a great list of questions to get you started.
Be sure to check out this video. It really highlights the suspense!


A book review of Jon Klaasen's "This is Not My Hat", with LOTS of ideas for discussions and activities.


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14 comments

  1. I couldn't find the video you referenced, but I may be missing a link somewhere. I love this book. I think that Klassen and Barnett are masters of ambiguity. I've been studying their work for awhile now. Kids seem to really enjoy that aspect, when everything isn't tied up neatly at the end of the book. Your ideas for discussion and activities are great!

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    1. That's weird about the video. It completely disappeared, but I just put it back in. Thanks for stopping by, Jilanne!

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  2. I love your conversation starters for this oldie but goodie ... and I think a seaweed painting would be great fun!

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    1. Thanks, Barbara. I'm actually a little embarrassed that I'm just now finding out about this book! It's only 7 years old, but still, how could I have NOT picked it up earlier?

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  3. I love this book -- but I really loved your suggestions in how to use it with children.

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  4. What a fun book - and great activities for after reading. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. You're welcome, Sue. Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. I LOVE this book! My kiddos enjoy it so much each year. Your ideas are awesome as always! I am definitely going to have my kiddos try changing expression on their drawings by changing the fish's eyes. I had no idea there was a video - thanks!

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    1. Hi Traci! Thanks for leaving a comment :) I think the "changing expressions" drawings will be really fun. It's amazing how a few small adjustments to the eye makes such a huge change in expression.

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  6. This books is great. I love your conversation starters and extension activities. Thanks for all the ideas.

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    1. Hey you're welcome! Glad you like the ideas:)

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  7. Great suggestions on how to use this much-loved picture book!

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Thanks for leaving a comment :)