Jon Klassen

Hay Festival: Triangle and Square


It's funny how hearing a story which you know and love so well read by the author/ illustrator team really brings it to life! Hearing Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen reading 'Sam and Dave Dig a Hole' today was a real joy. From the reaction of the audience, I was not the only one who loved it!


The pair obviously have a great deal of fun working together, creating fabulous stories like 'Sam and Dave', 'Extra Yarn' (another great favourite of mine!) and 'The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse'. Mac explained how he likes to write books that make the reader do the work, making them think and ask questions about what has happened. 


Explaining that he usually uses pencil and paper and finishes things on the computer,  Jon demonstrated how he creates characters using just the computer so that everyone could see. It was wonderful to see how easily he created the dog with the trademark enigmatic eyes of Jon's characters. He laughingly explained that he doesn't like to show emotion, leaving it to the writing to convey this to the reader.


The session went far too quickly, ending with them reading 'Triangle' and then 'Square'- both of which are brilliant and will be reviewed very soon! 


Just remember, gents- North Somerset. Best cup of tea, best cake- and that's a promise!

Triangle  Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Walker Books   ISBN: 978-1406378368

Square    Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Walker Books   ISBN: 978-1406378658

You can read our review of 'Extra Yarn' here.


At its core, Pax it is a simple love story. From the very first page, Pax is truly heart breaking: a tale of loyalty and friendship, hope and bravery. It sweeps across time and place, set in an unspecified year, in an unspecified landscape, yet its themes are painfully familiar to the world we live in today. A landscape, a family, a great bond between a young boy and his fox, all are torn apart by conflict.

Peter found the injured cub and cared for it. As it healed and grew in strength, the bond between them also grew. The foxes’ physical pain was mirrored by Peter’s emotional pain: pain at the loss of his mother, pain at the great rift between himself and his father. Peter and his fox – Pax – become companions, best-friends, offering each other protection and comfort. But, there is talk of war. As the danger encroaches ever closer, Peter is forced by his father to return his beloved Pax to the wild, before leaving home to live a great distance away with his grandfather. Peter’s father enlists and Peter is left alone, lost without his fox. As Peter’s car drives away, Pax is left alone, lost without his boy. Peter realises that being hand-reared means certain death for Pax, alone in the wild. In the shadow of war, fearful for the fate of Pax, Peter sets out, desperate to be reunited with him. Meanwhile, Pax, determined and resolute, waits. He waits, knowing that his boy will return for him. He waits, certain that his one true friend would never abandon him.

The story drifts from Pax to Peter, Peter to Pax, weaving each of their adventures together, like two strands from the same cloth. Whilst struggling to survive alone in the wilderness, both Pax and Peter find companionship and with it, hope. The details of the war are never specific, nor can they be pinpointed to any point in history, therefore they become unimportant. The effect of the fear and chaos, however, brought by man on to the natural world and to Peter’s world, is made abundantly clear. Themes of war, PTSD, family divides, loss and sacrifice are swirled through the story. All are worthy of discussion and raise many questions.

Jon Klassen’s illustrations, true to style and form, are enchanting. Equally, Sara Pennypacker’s use of vocabulary is poetic – story-telling at its best. Pax – a poignant, thought-provoking story, filled with emotion – is literary art in every sense: a high-quality text to inspire high-quality discussion, questioning and creative writing.


Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen    ISBN: 978-0062377012


The Nest

Longlisted for the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award Moving On Category

Book Title: The Nest

Authors: Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Publishers: David Fickling Books

ISBN: 978-1910200865

Steve’s life is ridden with anxiety- anxiety that he battles daily and tries to control with various OCD rituals.

When his very poorly brother is born, worry and sadness threaten to envelop Steve and his family, but the arrival of ‘The Nest’ and the eerie Wasp Queen seem to offer a solution to their problems…as long as Steve says ‘Yes’.

I’ve never trusted wasps and after reading Kenneth Oppel’s ‘The Nest’, I feel completely justified!

Beautifully strange, immersed in suspense and punctuated by Klassen’s dark and sinister illustrations, ‘The Nest’ is a powerful page turner that will make your flesh creep.

As well as being truly scary, the story asks some really big questions such as what we mean by the terms ‘perfect’ and ‘normal’ and whether the quest for such things is as evil as Oppel’s wasps that we see ‘regurgitating matter from their mouths and sculpturing it into baby flesh.’

Brrrr! Yes, unless you want a wakeful night, ‘The Nest’ is not bedtime story material, rather a superb moving on read with plenty of opportunity to discuss the allegorical themes and the effect of an unreliable narrator.

‘The Nest’ has earned comparisons with Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’, Almond’s ‘Skellig’ and Ness’s ‘A Monster Calls’ and definitely deserves its place amongst them and its nomination in the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award ‘Moving On’ category.