'This Is Not My Hat' author Jon Klassen on his Caldecott Medal win: 'I feel like I'm going to get hit by a bus' -- EXCLUSIVE
In December, we named This Is Not My Hat one of the 10 Great Kids Books of 2012. So it came as no surprise to us when author/illustrator Jon Klassen’s witty picture book (and the follow-up to 2011’s excellent I Want My Hat Back) took home the Caldecott Medal at this year’s ALA Midwinter Meeting. Klassen, on the other hand, was shocked. “You don’t really know if you have a shot,” he told EW today. “It’s such a prestigious award that the idea of winning one is pretty easy to put out of your head.” Check out our full interview with the author/illustrator below for more on his upcoming projects, a third Hat book, and why he thinks he’s going to get hit by a bus.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you find out that you’d won?
JON KLASSEN: They called early in the morning.
“Pretty early. I’ve heard I got a bit of a break. Normally they call at 6 in the morning. I was catching a plane that morning to San Jose and the cabbie called first and said he was downstairs. Then after he hung up the phone, [the ALA called]. You don’t really expect a call. You try and put it out of your head. You know what’s going on, but you’re not like, ‘I’m going to sit by the phone and wait for this thing.’ You’re just going to break your own heart. But they called as I was putting the phone down and said, ‘You’ve won the Golden Caldecott for this book you did.’ I couldn’t believe it. I was sort of half awake and this cab was downstairs and I was all flustered. What they do is, the whole committee around the table, they have you on speaker and you want to say something meaningful.”
I know! I was just like, “Thank you.” You don’t know what to say. How do you justify that? So I think I said something, I can’t remember what, and I hung up the phone. The cab called back and said, “You know I’m still down here?” And I’m like, “I know, I’m coming, I’m coming.” And then as I was hanging the phone up, they called again saying that we’d won a silver medal for Extra Yarn. And that just doesn’t happen! I didn’t know what they were doing. They led into it with sort of a riddle. I didn’t understand. They’d already called me about the award. What is this new thing? It took me a minute to process it. They were laughing over there because they like waking people up and catching them off guard.
I can’t believe they expect you to give a coherent acceptance speech at 6 in the morning.
[Laughs] I can’t imagine I said anything eloquent. I don’t think you’re supposed to.
Did you try and plan out anything to say, like an Oscar speech or something?
[Laughs] No! I’d been working hard all weekend to put it out of my head because it could go any which way and you don’t really want to think about it too much.
So what did you do to distract yourself?
Well, you just sleep. [Laughs] It’s such a prestigious award that the idea of winning one is pretty easy to put out of your head.
Did you feel like you had any shot at winning?
I tried to stay off the blogs. The thing about this award is that they never short-list it. They don’t tell you which books they’re considering and more often than not there’s something that comes out and you’re like, “Wow, we didn’t even know that was on the radar.” So it’s hard to know. There was talk of it, but that was just because I had books out this year and you hope they’re in contention. You don’t really know if you have a shot.
You mentioned this, but also getting the honor for Extra Yarn… That’s the first time an author’s had two books recognized since 1947! That’s crazy.
Yeah, it’s nuts! It doesn’t happen. Even one of these things doesn’t happen, much less two of them. I feel like I’m going to get hit by a bus or something.
NEXT: Jon tells us where he plans to keep his medals and teases a potential third Hat book.
What does this all mean to you?
I don’t know!
It’s a very philosophical question.
[Laughs] It’s hard. I don’t think I’ve processed it quite yet. What struck me the most is that they even had This Is Not My Hat in the room. Someone was looking at it. I’m still getting over that, the fact that people looked at the book. That probably sounds overly modest or something, but it still is a big deal. They were talking about it and discussing it… I don’t think my head is capable of processing it.
Is it at all intimidating to think that they went through your book in such detail?
Yeah! It’s great to hear that the result was a win, but it still makes you so nervous. It’s like, What were they looking at? It’s like being seen in your underwear and you didn’t know it. It’s bizarre.
So where will you keep your medals?
I don’t know. I have to make a little shelf or something for them.
What are your upcoming plans? Are you working on a new book?
I’m working on another book with Mac [Barnett], who did Extra Yarn. And I’m working on another one on my own. Neither of them have release dates yet — it’s still pretty early on. But they’re in the pipe.
Will there be another Hat book?
I’m working on what exactly that would be. It’s a tricky thing. The first one wasn’t really prompted by anything. And then the second book — the first book didn’t really suggest a second one even though we sort of found it afterwards. They weren’t planned together. And the third one is doing the same thing. The two books together don’t suggest a third, but I’d like a third. You get nervous about trilogies. I can’t really think of tons of trilogies where the third one was a grand slam. It’s always something like, Well, we had to do it. Everyone likes the first and second ones, but no one seems to like the third. Something has to change. I’m not really sure what it is. The books are so short that you can change your mind a thousand times up to the last minute, so it could end up being very different from what I’m thinking of now. I don’t really want to commit to anything specific just yet. [Laughs]
Are you going to take a vacation or anything now that you’ve won?
No, I’m working pretty hard still. You kind of want to earn it, you know what I mean? That’s the bizarre thing too. I haven’t been doing books for too long. It’s been three or four years and so you kind of feel like the award is something you… It feels like they’re saying keep going. It’s like, “We like what you’re doing, keep it up.” So you want to earn it. You want make them feel like you deserve it.