I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is truly a book for all ages.
The author-artist’s background as an animator informs his pacing and the subtle adjustments in the expressions of his animal characters. As the story progresses, Klassen demonstrates what the slightest shift of the shape of the eyes or a change in posture can do to convey his character's mood. When the bear realizes, “I HAVE SEEN MY HAT,” he literally sees red. He appears on a tomato-colored page that infuses his fur. His anger emanates from the pages.
Rereading the book helps youngest readers to pick out the early clues as to the culprit that took the bear’s hat. Older readers will appreciate the minimalist approach Klassen brings to the pictures—a tuft of grass here, a rock there—that keep the focus on the bear’s internal life. If youngest children are not ready to imagine a worst-case scenario, Klassen allows them room to think the thief simply got away.
Here the spare scenery serves Klassen’s story well—children can see what they’re ready to see and “get" what they’re ready to get. The important thing, in the end, is Bear gets his hat back. Right?