23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen was born in 1981 in Winnipeg, Canada. He studied illustration in Oakville until 2005 and subsequently moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a designer and illustrator, among others on motion pictures like »City of Ember« (2008), »Coraline« (2009) and »Kung Fu Panda 2« (2011). He was also in charge of the music video for the U2-Song »I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight« (as art director) and for the BBC title sequence of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver (as designer).

»Cats’ Night Out« (2010), was his debut as an illustrator of picture books, while »I Want My Hat Back« (2011), the story of a bear in pursuit of a hat, was his debut as an author and illustrator. He picked each of the few words in the book with extreme care, and even the illustrations are reduced to a minimum. The way text and image intriguingly complement and are related to each other is a sign of Klassen’s great skill. He shows great relish in playing with the narrative and its interpretation, and it is the difference between these two that provides for the enchantment of this philosophical book. »I Want My Hat Back« talks at high speed in a very pointed and at the same time cryptic manner about lying, being caught and of the survival of the fittest. The book became an international picture-book classic already shortly after its release. The same applies to Klassen’s »This Is Not My Hat« (2012), a variation on the theme of »I Want My Hat Back« and still a book in its own right. In this instance, a small fish steals the hat of a large, sleeping fish. Here, too, Klassen poses questions about reality and its interpretation, about right and wrong. With reduced but effective imagery, he has created a subtle reading experience full of dark humour. Klassen’s two »Hat« books sold a million times globally and were translated into 22 languages. His book »The Dark« (2013), written by Lemony Snicket, also proves Klassen’s talent for adding another consistent dimension to the written word. While Snicket speaks in simple words of the fear of darkness and of overcoming that fear, the book gains an additional attractive feature through Klassen’s light-dark contrasts and clever composition of perspective.

Besides his own two books, Klassen has illustrated a total of eight books by other authors, and his illustrations have also appeared in various anthologies. Internationally, his work has received all the important awards in the area of children’s and youth literature, among them the German Prize for Youth Literature (2013), the Caldecott Medal (2013), the Kate Greenaway Medal and the United Kingdom Literary Association’s Book Award (2014). Klassen lives with his wife in Los Angeles.


Cats’ Night Out [Text: Carolyn Stutson] Simon & Schuster New York, 2010

Wo ist mein Hut NordSüd Zürich, 2012 [Ü: Thomas Bodmer]

Das ist nicht mein Hut NordSüd Zürich, 2013 [Ü: Thomas Bodmer]

Dunkel [Text: Lemony Snicket] NordSüdZürich, 2014 [Ü: Thomas Bodmer]

Sam und Dave graben ein Loch [Text: Mac Barnett] NordSüd Zürich, 2015 [Ü: Thomas Bodmer]