For those of you on Twitter, you know there has been a lot of great discussion around this book. We have been talking nonstop for days about various ideas around this book. If you want to go back and see some of our conversations, you can search #hatback. The Twitter conversation has reminded me how important social networking is to my reading life. So many thoughts and ideas because of the smart people I talk to on Twitter. Here are some things I've learned because of this ongoing #hatback chat.
SPOILER ALERT--if you haven't read the book, this might change your reading a bit so you may want to read this after you read the book. (The book is quite the bargain on amazon right now, so if you don't have it on order at your local independent book seller, you can order it there.)
I Love Books that Invites Similar Patterns in Response
It was funny reading it aloud to classes. A pattern I notice is that kids look at me like I am crazy when I tell them this is a funny book and then start reading--because it is not funny right away. Then there is an abrupt change in attitude where everyone in group looks shocked, looks at others, and starts laughing, collectively. It was pretty much a pattern in every class. One 3rd grade class asked me to reread it when they came back to the library this week. On the second read, kids started laughing on the first page. And they couldn't stop laughing. I found myself doing the same thing--the book seems to get more amusing every time I read it. I think part of this is the anticipation of the ending. But part of it was also noticing things about the bear after you know the ending. Noticing how hysterical the lead-up really is. Brilliant, I think.
Bill Prosser at Literate Lives reviewed the book as one of his recent posts and shares my exact reaction when reading the book. I find some of the best books to be like this--they elicit very similar responses in almost everyone who reads them (with the exception of a reader or two here or there:-)
Getting Books You Love into the Hands of Others
Colby Sharp and I share a book shopping habit. In one tweet, Colby said, "I just got back from the library. Placed #hatback cover out #teambear." I always thought I was the only one who did this. Going into a bookstore or library and putting a book I love face out on the shelf so others can find it easily. I love this and love the whole idea that when we love a book, we want to share it. We want to share it with people we know but we also want everyone to find it.
Not loving a book that the rest of the world loves...
I know what this feels like when you just can't love a book that everyone else in the world loves. You want to like it, you really do, but you can't. You keep going back to it--trying to love it, but you can't. We all have books we don't get or don't agree with the world about. This is what happened this week on Twitter. Jen (@mentortexts) just didn't see the humor. Her insights and empathy for the rabbit actually sparked some great discussion. And the conversation invited Jen to revisit the book and write about her love/hate relationship with this book. I think this conversation has reminded me, that it is these differences as readers that help us all read more thoughtfully. What would there be to talk about if we all had the same exact thoughts when we read a book?
I've had a similar issue with the wordless picture book FOX AND HEN TOGETHER. Everyone in the world, except for me, loves this book. It has received starred reviews from many reviewers. There are sequels and fans everywhere. But the book disturbs me. I can't get over the idea that Hen is kidnapped by a "bad guy" and then somehow stays there to live happily ever after. For any 80s General Hospital fans out there, you may remember a similar storyline when Luke and Laura fell in love. I just can't get past that connection no matter how many times I've revisited the book. I get sad every time. But, others' insights have helped me understand a bit of what I missed on my own. Again, the importance of that community of readers.
Sometimes a book is meant to be just plain fun.
Kids at school have been talking about I WANT MY HAT BACK and I've shared some of my conversations around the book with a few classes. When I mentioned that some people really felt sorry for the rabbit, the looks on their faces were of pure sadness for that reader. They looked at me with eyes that said, "It was just a funny book, Mrs. Sibberson." I don't think this is one of those books that will change the way they live their lives. I think they get that this book is just silly and they love that. I've already heard adults saying things like, "Oh, I can use this book in my inferring unit." Sometimes as a teacher, we forget that some books are just really about joy and fun. This book was a big reminder to me about that.
Rethinking Book Crafts....
I don't like crafts around books. I am all about deep reading and thoughtful response. But who would not want to make a red pointy hat with rabbit (or bear) ears sticking out? Wearing one would be such a fun reminder of the book. A literary joke all day long.
In terms of other crafts, I agree wholeheartedly with Lucy Calkins when she says she has never finished a book and had the desire to go make a diorama when she was finished. I have used her words over and over. But really, if someone asked me to make a diorama or a board game to go along with I WANT MY HAT BACK, I am thinking it would be fun. I already have ideas.
And, I never got past page 60 in the Twilight series. So I never understood the shirts. TEAM EDWARD/TEAM JACOB. Seeing them in stores and on teens never made much sense to me. I didn't get it. But I am thinking I would LOVE to wear a TEAM BEAR shirt. Lots of others would too. Until then, I am happy to have a #teambear twibbon on my Twitter photo. If you have not already done so, you may want to hop over to Twibbon and support #teambear. (Thanks, Teresa! @trkravtin) Really, there is only one person I know of who is on the fence about #teambear.
I still don't think we should ever assign crazy book extensions and I don't really think they help students understand books much better. But I do think there is something about literary jokes that we don't embrace enough in schools. School is a great place for literary humor that kids can be part of.
How Our Thinking About a Book Changes When We Share it with Kids
Some books just beg to be read aloud and some books cannot be fully appreciated until they are shared with young children. I remember when DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS won the Caldecott Honor, some people didn't see the brilliance. I remember asking, "Have you read it to young children?" Mo Willems understands young children so well that every one of his books is fun to read aloud. Although I love them as much as the kids, Willems books beg to be shared with kids. I have had this experience over and over--a book I read on my own is merely OK, but it moves up to my favorites list once I share it with kids. Authors of kids books know young children well. And sometimes it takes sharing some of these books with children to see the brilliance.
So, it's been a fun week or two thinking about I WANT MY HAT BACK with Twitter friends. I imagine the fun will continue for a while. It is definitely one of my favorite picture books of the year for so many reasons.