We Found a Hat
By Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 56 pages, $22
Klassen's understated, hilarious, dark and deadpan hat books (I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat) have long been a highlight in children's literature. Though he frequently collaborates as an artist for picture books and middle-grade novels, he's at his best when illustrating his own stories, squeezing out every bit of creepy humour at his own pace. The conclusion to his hat trilogy takes place in a gorgeous desert landscape. Two turtles – one sweet, one calculating, both dopey – find a hat that seemingly doesn't belong to anyone. They both try it on, and, after realizing that there is no possible way to pick who gets to keep a hat that looks equally awesome on both, they decide to leave the hat alone and go to sleep. One of the turtles, however, has another plan. Those who have read and loved the previous two books in the hat series might assume they know how this one will end, but Klassen proves once again he can still surprise with a finale – even if this one is coming a turtle's pace away.
By Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda
Tundra Books, 40 pages, $22
The Liszts like their lists; it's how they keep their lives in order. Each member of the macabre family has their interests that they express in numerical order: Mama makes lists of illnesses and soccer players; Frederick, the youngest child, makes lists of fun things to do. Illustrated in a gilded art-deco style, every page could be an art print hanging in a Parkdale apartment (on one page, Winifred, the oldest child, is listening to Nina Hagen and Radiohead records). One day, a visitor arrives. He's a funny looking fellow with bushy dark hair and a long black coat – the type of guy who, if he wandered into your house unannounced one day, you'd take notice of. Unfortunately, since he's not on anyone's list, most of the family pretty much ignores him; the Listzts' lists don't allow for much wiggle room. It's not until Edward, the middle child, decides that maybe not everything worth doing needs to be planned in advance that the rest of the family learns to let loose a little bit.
Friend or Foe?
By John Sobol and Dasha Tolstikova
Groundwood Books, 32 pages, $19
There is a small house beside a great palace. In the house lives a mouse; every night, he climbs along the rafters onto the roof and looks up at the palace. In the palace lives a cat; every night, she climbs up the stairs to the palace tower and looks down on the house. Every night, the cat and mouse stare at each other; that's just the way it is. One night, the mouse decides he's bored of this routine. He wants to find out if the cat is his friend or foe and finds a way to sneak into the palace to get an answer. The story is stark and ambiguous, with illustrations done in shades of grey and the occasional red. It's this understatedness that lets the book's sly humour land; the page in which the cat reacts to the mouse in the palace is genuinely hilarious. Inquisitive young readers will have a lot to discuss by the book's conclusion.