The best way to tackle serious issues, said Klassen, is with a solid visual premise. Words aren’t within the jurisdiction of very young children. Their territory lies with the pictures. The trick is to allow kids to suss out the reality of a given situation via the illustrations.
“It’s not just more information,” said Klassen of moments like one in “We Found a Hat” when one turtle says he is thinking of nothing while his eyes are fixed covetously on the hat he wants to steal. “It’s actually the true story.”
So why the hat? Because hats aren’t necessary, said Klassen. If a character wanted his money back or his food back or something consequential along those lines, then the thievery would be justified. A hat is superfluous but sentimental. In these books the hats don’t even really fit the animals who want them.
“That doesn’t matter, it’s beside the point,” said Klassen. “Kids’ books should have a visual premise to solve. At the end of these books somebody better be wearing a hat.”