Library Lady: Jon Klassen


If you're new to this blog, or maybe even if you aren't, you might not know about my day job. I work in an elementary school library, and I love it! I don't call myself a librarian because I don't have a Library Science degree, but most of the time I am the only person there and I take care of everything, so I guess I'm kind of like a librarian. But I just call myself a library lady. Which brings me to this new feature, Library Lady, where I will be sharing a bit about some of the children's books I love. Now, I definitely don't think you have to be a kid, or have kids, to love these books. I am obsessed with children's picture books! My secret (not anymore, I guess) ambition is to write and illustrate one of my own, but for now I'm just admiring the work of others. This first installment is all about one of my absolute favorite author/illustrators, Jon Klassen.


Klassen started out in animation studios (he worked on Coraline!) and began illustrating books only a few years ago. His work first appeared in Cats' Night Out and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. His work really is some of the most exciting in children's books today. It has something about it that evokes that feeling of nostalgia for the books we used to read as kids, but at the same time, it's so different. His writing is definitely unlike anything else out there today.


With I Want My Hat Back, Klassen finally got to show that he is not just a master artist, but a fantastic storyteller as well. The story is simple enough; a bear cannot find his beloved hat, and as he searches for it, he meets a variety of animals and asks them if they've seen his hat. The characters are deadpan, the delivery is so straightforward, and then something happens that is totally unpredictable for a children's book. Apparently, some parents aren't too happy with the ending. Well, I read the book to my kindergarten and first grade classes, and though I did have to check that they understood exactly what happened, they weren't freaked out at all. They were fans! The pictures are so wonderful in this book; the expressions on the animals are too perfect! Even the insides of the covers are beautifully detailed.


Though it may be about hat theft as well, This Is Not My Hat tells a bit of a different tale. This time, a little fish has stolen a hat belonging to a much bigger fish, and the story is told from his perspective. He knows he's done something wrong, but he thinks he can get away with it. Well, you'll just have to see how that turns out for him. This book actually just won the Caldecott Medal a few days ago, and it's easy to see why. It's a great story and a visual masterpiece. Somehow, he manages to make even seaweed look particularly marvelous. I read this one to my classes last week, and they were so excited about it.


Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett, is a sweet story expertly illustrated by Klassen. It's about a girl living in a dreary town, who finds a box filled with colorful yarn. She knits scarf after scarf for herself, her dog, her classmates, and everyone else in town. She even knits coverings for trucks and houses, yet the box never runs out of yarn. When an archduke offers her a fortune for the box and she refuses, he formulates an evil plan to steal the box. You'll have to read this wonderful book to find out what happens in the end. This one was granted a much-deserved Caldecott Honor, so that's two Caldecotts for Klassen in one year!

I can't wait to see what's next from Jon Klassen! He has an upcoming collaboration with Lemony Snicket, which I'm sure is going to be fantastic. I know he will continue to impress me time after time!

(The links to purchase the books above are Amazon affiliate links, but I genuinely love and recommend these books wholeheartedly!)

27 comments:

  1. That's so cool that you're a library lady! And it's so exciting that Jon Klassen is doing a collaboration with Lemony Snicket! I love both of their work to pieces :)

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    1. Me too, I can't wait to see the book! It's called The Dark, and it's coming out in April, hooray!

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  2. I'm a big fan of children's books. They're way more clever than adult books. The Lemony Snicket collaboration sounds terribly awful (which means wonderfully awesome of course)!

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    1. I definitely find myself reading more children's books than adult books these days (well, it is my job after all, haha). There are so many amazing ones!
      Ahhh it's going to be so good!

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  3. i love picture books! when i was getting my degree in elementary ed my favorite class was children's literature. we spent hours analysing picture books and it was amazing to learn about how much thought goes into every page!

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    1. Oh that class sounds amazing! I took a storytelling class for my theater major and we had a textbook about kid lit that I loved, but the actual class was nerve-wracking because we had to actually memorize stories and retell them without notes, in front of the whole class.... eek!

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  4. I would love to have your job! I've always thought it would be so wonderful to work in an elementary or middle school's library or the children's section of a public library. I love children's books! I'm going to have to look for these ones the next time I go to the library. You have me interested in the story and the pictures look so lovely!

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    1. I love my job, especially after my previous job was extremely stressful and draining, this one is pretty laid back and quiet. I'm so glad I got you interested in the books, I hope you love them!

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  5. I loved "library" aka library class when I was in elementary school. I would love to work in one now, like you. It seems like it's fun and rewarding. I love this series and I hope you keep up with it. I'm out of the loop, in regards to newer children's literature. My sister is a kindergarten teacher, so I will have to ask her if she has any of his books in her classroom.

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    1. I know, it was for sure one of my favorite things in school too! It's a really great job, though it'd be even better if it was full time.

      Yay, I'm glad you love the series! I've had a few posts saved for it, for months actually, so I've already got some great material, and we have so many really good books at the library (and in my own collection) that I'm excited about sharing.

      I definitely recommend Extra Yarn for kindergarten, the other two are fantastic of course, but the kids might not necessarily "get" the endings of those as much as the slightly older kids, they're more sort of implied endings (things happen "offscreen" if that makes sense). I think my kinder classes for the most part understood them, but I always ask them what they think happened, just to make sure.

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  6. Danielle, I think we have a psychic link! I was going to post this super awesome 20-minute Jon Klassen interview in my next LJ post (specifically for you since I don't think anyone else cares about illustration) but now I don't have to. I just love listening to artistic people talk about their influences and creative process. Yaaaaaay!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE1g-eZ0I7k

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    1. Well yeah, of course we do! I think it's pretty much been proven.
      EVERYONE should care about illustration!
      I'm going to watch it now, thanks Liezl! :D

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  7. I think it's awesome job! I wish I could have such, but kids are very mean here. Anyway I love children !! These are such cutties, aren't they?
    And all these books you showed <3 These are awesome :D
    http://coeursdefoxes.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you! They can be cute, and then sometimes not so cute, haha. But it's always fun! :)

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  8. I absolutely love the illustrations in all of these books! There is just something so wonderful and almost magical about them! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Of course, I'm so glad you like them! I'm always singing his praises. :)

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  9. Huzzah for books!

    You know I have been following you since LJ and I don't think it twigged that you were a library lady? I think I may have been too distracted by your lovely pastel photos ;)

    As a book designer I spend many hours pouring over well designed books looking for inspiring and I adore illustrated children's books because there are so many talented illustrators experimenting with different techniques these days.

    The books you mentioned are on my list to buy the Bub when he is a bit older (and doesn't rip out pages in excitement)

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    1. Huzzah indeed!
      I actually have only had the library job for a year now. Before that I was a classroom aide for children with behavioral issues, all the while hoping that a library position would open up, and then it finally did!
      The talent out there now just blows my mind, I'm always finding beyond amazing work in books nowadays!
      He's one lucky guy to have a mama who'll provide him with such awesome reading material!

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  10. these are so wonderful! i love children's books— i'm a bookmaker and i collect pop up books so that i can study and learn from them. i head straight for the kids' books in used stores to look for them because i'm always adding to my collection so i can teach myself new paper engineering techniques. anyway, your job sounds neat and rewarding— i went to the library almost daily in school and i would've loved someone like you around to recommend books to me!

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    1. That is so neat, wow! I'm the same way, always a bee-line to the kids' books!
      Aw and that is so kind of you to say! :)

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  11. My husband has worked in books for nearly 10 years so I'm all about the children's picture book. The first time I read I want my hat back I laughed so hard. That bear looks so grumpy. My favorite children's book at the moment is Don't let the pigeon drive the bus.

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    1. Oooh, interesting! Oh yes, the kids at our school love the pigeon books so much that they've all been either lost, or discarded from to much wear and tear. We need more of them desperately!

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  12. heya, i just stumbled across your blog and kinda think it's all sorts of cute!
    this post reminded me of http://www.doorsixteen.com somehow, since i seem to remember she started out as a librarian of sorts and then moved to full on designing books daily :)

    so i guess i'm just saying - i'll keep my fingers crossed for you!
    x
    alina

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    1. That is awesome! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  13. I LOVE Jon Klassen! I bought I Want My Hat Back for my mum for Christmas as we're both big children's book fans. It made me chuckle in the book shop and I end up smiling each time I read it. I didn't know know about This Is Not My Hat, but that's next on my list- sounds great!

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    1. You will totally love it for sure!

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  14. Wow so inspirational. Thank you fro sharing

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