A while back I interviewed Jon Klassen about his instant hit picture book I WANT MY HAT BACK. People loved the minimal text, simple yet sophisticated artwork, and that surprise ending that had everybody talking. Well, he's done it again. Today I interview Jon about his latest, THIS IS NOT MY HAT.

Q.     Jon! You've done it again - you've created a simple, profound and poignant story, where once again the protagonist gets... well, I don't want to spoil it for anybody, but if they read your first book, I WANT MY HAT BACK, they can guess. So what is it with these scandalous endings?
A.     Thank you! The endings don't happen on purpose! Probably my favorite thing I've heard about I Want My Hat Back was when my cousin's young son finished reading it and he was asked what he thought of the ending, and did he think maybe it could've ended on a friendlier note. He said "yeah, maybe, but this is what HAD to happen." I think that's great, and it's the same feeling you get when you're writing something that you like. You set it up, but it gets to the point where you almost feel like you have no choice in how it's going to end.

Q.     The first book had simple images on a light background. THIS IS NOT MY HAT seems completely opposite with simple shapes on a dark ground. What was your thinking behind that?
A.     I liked having the water be black. It implies a lot, visually, I think. It seems very still and quiet, and it seems like it might be deep down in the water. Not ocean deep, but maybe at the bottom of a lake. It also helped me organize things and accentuate details. The characters' eyes are a big part of the story, and also bubbles are important, and the darker the background, the more those two things pop. It wasn't necessarily to contrast with the first book, but I do like that it worked out that way.

Q.     I love your simple shapes. Do you mind sharing your illustration method with my readers?
A.     For both I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat, the method was the same. I did the separate pieces of the illustration in black Chinese ink on sort of semi-heavy paper, then cut the shapes out and scanned them and added color to them and assembled them digitally. All the smaller features, like eyes and noses and things, are added in later since I'm not so skilled with ink to do things that small.

Q.     What was the inspiration for this story? Was it based on a real-life experience?
A.     If there's anything drawn from real-life experience in either book, it's the idea of indifference, and the different ways it shows up. In I Want My Hat Back, the rabbit is totally indifferent to the thing he did and also to the consequences when they arrive. In this book, the big fish who was wronged is just a big force that plows toward the little fish and doesn't say a word. He just comes for him in a very direct way, like things that catch up with you and make you realize how small your plans were against everything that could go wrong.

Q.     THIS IS NOT MY HAT has a strong message relayed in a crafty way. What's been the reaction from parents? Kids?
A.     So far I haven't gotten a lot of reaction from anyone since the book just came out. I kind of hope they just like the story and don't delve too much into asking "ok what can we take away from this?". Kids already know you shouldn't steal, and this isn't saying you will always get caught - kids know just as well that sometimes you don't. This is just a story about someone who does get caught.

Q.     Finally, are you going to stay with the hat theme on future books? Can you share what you're working on next?
A.     I was kind of surprised to see a hat again in this one! It's a handy device, but I'm going to try not to shoehorn it in if it doesn't fit the story.
     I'm working on another story involving animals, but that's as much as I've nailed down so far. Very specific.

Thanks Jon! Check out this cool book trailer!

     Candlewick is doing a very clever thing with the PR for this book - they're giving away a hat (for adults only, please) along with a signed copy of THIS IS NOT MY HAT!!! I'm told it's very groovy and they sort of go together, don't you think? Must live in the continental US to win. The drawing will be held next Wednesday.
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Go visit Jon on the rest of his Blog Book Tour!
Mon, Oct 8: Playing by the Book [UK]
Tues, Oct 9: 100 Scope Notes [US]
Wed, Oct 10: My Best Friends Are Books [AUS]
Thurs, Oct 11: Elizabeth O. Dulemba [US]
Fri, Oct 12: Wahm-Bam [UK]
Mon, Oct 15: Lost in the Library [CAN]
Tues, Oct 16: My Little Bookcase [AUS]
Wed, Oct. 17: A Year of Reading [US]
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