Klassen’s coy effort combines spare illustration, simple, repetitive text and a “payback’s a bear” plot.
A somber, sepia-toned bear longs for his missing hat and questions a series of forest animals about its whereabouts. While everyone denies seeing it, a rabbit (sporting, readers will note, a pointy red chapeau) protests a bit too indignantly. Ten pages on, as the bear describes his hat for a solicitous deer, realization hits: “I HAVE SEEN MY HAT.” The accompanying illustration shows the indignant bear suffused in the page’s angry red. There’s the subsequent dash and confrontation, followed by bear in hat and rabbit—well, nowhere to be seen. Klassen’s ink-and-digital creatures, similarly almond-eyed and mouth-less, appear stiff and minimalist against creamy white space. Foliage is suggested with a few ink strokes (though it’s quite bashed-up after rabbit goes missing). The text type, New Century Schoolbook, intentionally evokes the visually comfy, eminently readable design of 1960s children’s primers. Font colors correlate with the animals’ dialogue as well as the illustrations’ muted color palette, and the four-sentence denials (first rabbit’s, then bear’s) structurally echo each other. Indubitably hip, this will find plenty of admirers. Others might react to a certain moral vapidity. And the littlest ones will demand to know where the heck that rabbit went.Cynical on wry. (Picture book. 4-7)