The Next Chapter

Jon Klassen's latest children's book The Rock from the Sky is a wry look at friendship, fear and isolation

The award-winning author and illustrator spoke with The Next Chapter about how Alfred Hitchcock inspired his latest picture book.
Jon Klassen is a Canadian animator, writer and illustrator of children's books. (Carson Ellis, Penguin Random House)

Jon Klassen is a Canadian author and illustrator based in Los Angeles. He's best known for his Hat series, which includes the books I Want My Hat Back, This is Not My Hat and We Found a Hat. He often collaborates with American author Mac Barnett on books like Triangle, The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Circle.

He has won literary honours including the Governor General's Literary award for children's literature — illustration for Cat's Night Out. In 2018, he was appointed to the Order of Canada for "his transformative contributions to children's literature." 

Klassen stopped by The Next Chapter to talk about his latest book The Rock from the Sky, a tale of friendship, fate, shared futuristic visions, and that funny feeling you get when something's off, but you just can't put your finger on it.

Out of control

"The Rock from the Sky is two things at once: it's a book where almost nothing happens, where the characters almost don't move and they almost say nothing of importance.

I think that the book is also about things you can't control.

"But at the same time, The Rock from the Sky involves a falling rock, time travel, aliens near death and quite a bit of betrayal.

"The book is also about things you can't control. You can't control rocks from the sky. Being subservient to that change, even in a passive way, was really important."

(The Rock from the Sky. Copyright © 2021 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.)

Big inspirations

"One of the big inspirations for this book was Alfred Hitchcock. I heard a talk that he did on the nature of suspense. He gave an example: let's say you have five people sitting at a table talking about something really boring, baseball or something. And all of a sudden, a bomb that was under the table, goes off and blows the whole thing to smithereens.

One of the big inspirations for this book was Alfred Hitchcock.

"He says your audience has got five seconds of shock out of that. But go back: at the beginning of that conversation or that scene, tell the audience about the bomb under the table that nobody else knows about. Suddenly, your audience is very interested in this conversation.

'And so, The Rock from the Sky, is Hitchcock's bomb under the table."

(The Rock from the Sky. Copyright © 2021 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.)

Jon Klassen's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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