I Want My Hat Back

Common Sense Media says

Silly theft story ultimately shows bear is the boss.




Caldecott Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Educational value

Shows a varity of animals very young readers can identify.

Positive messages

Stealing is wrong. There can be serious consequences for lying and stealing. Bears are big and strong, so it's best not to make them angry.

Positive role models

The bear is determined to get back what has been taken from him. Some animals tell the truth about whether they've seen the bear's hat. The rabbit lies.  

Violence & scariness

It's implied (but not shown) that the bear eats the thieving rabbit.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that I Want My Hat Back is a Caldecott Honor book by author-illustrator Jon Klassen, who won the Caldecott Medal for This Is Not My Hat and illustrated Extra Yarn, also a Caldecott Honor book. This one's a big hit with kids and grown-ups alike, with a repetitive motif climaxed by a definitive conclusion to the bear's problem (although the violence is not shown). Readers will find the bear's victory over the thief amusing, but the implication that the bear ate him could be disturbing for some younger kids.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

A big bear's hat is gone and he wants it back. He asks other animals, one by one, \"Have you seen my hat?\" One by one they say no, until he realizes one of the animals was lying. (Kids can figure it out before the bear does.) Will that animal get away with his crime, or will the determined bear get his hat back -- and make the thief pay?

Is it any good?


I WANT MY HAT BACK is told entirely in dialogue and is a wonderful showcase for author-illustrator Jon Klassen's sly, deadpan humor. The low-key but determined bear gets what he wants in the end, and it doesn't look good for the thief. 

The repetitive motif is perfect for preschoolers, and the spare earth-toned  illustrations are fun, with just enough emotion to carry the tale in this Caldecott Honor book. However, having one character kill and eat another character (offstage) in a picture book may be a tad edgy for some families.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about picture books. How do the pictures help tell the story?

  • What clue did you spot that showed who took the bear's hat? 

  • Take a look at Jon Klassen's Extra Yarn. You'll find the bear in I Want My Hat Back makes a surprise appearance on one of the pages in that story.

Book details

Author:Jon Klassen
Illustrator:Jon Klassen
Genre:Picture Book
Topics:Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:September 27, 2011
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8
Read aloud:4 - 8
Read alone:5 - 8
Available on:Hardback, Paperback
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old June 16, 2014

Grandpa present

My family got this for Christmas and we all think it is hilarious
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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