Jon Klassen

Episode 25

Jon Klassen

Negative Space: Jon Klassen on Restraint

author jon klassen
Masthead Waves

About this episode

Jon is a Caldecott Medal winner author and illustrator known for his distinctive minimalistic art style and quirky but profound writing. His work includes his Hat Trilogy, starting with "I Want My Hat Back", along with newer works such as "The Rock from the Sky," "The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale" and many collaborations with his longtime friend and author Mac Barnett.  


"That's still my trick too, never tell them how they're feeling. Never begin to even show how they're feeling. They'll get it anyway. You're describing negative space and the negative space you can't even get at.” - Jon Klassen


Where there is empty space, our brains will fill in the blanks, and often, the way in which we personally fill those blank spaces is far more potent than anything that can be written in words or shown in an image. That’s why despite being gifted in both illustrating and writing, Jon Klassen always intentionally restrains himself from specificity. 

In this episode, Jon tells us the story of how he learned to embrace the unspoken through a “gunshot moment” in his youth. He’ll talk about how he intentionally incorporates negative space into his work and why that is so impactful for young readers in particular, and we’ll hear about the SNL classics that inspired his coy sense of comedy. 

Keep up with Jordan and The Reading Culture @thereadingculturepod and subscribe to our newsletter at Join Jon on social @jonklassen.


In his reading challenge, A Tale to Remember, Jon invites readers to follow a process that for him emerged unintentionally in the creation of his latest book, "The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale." You can find his list and all past reading challenges at
This episode’s Beanstack Featured Librarian is Ellen Clark, the Children's Outreach Librarian for Kokomo Howard County Public Library in Indiana. Ellen shares an experience she recently had that highlights the emotional impact librarians have not just on a community writ large, but on each individual reader.

  • Chapter 1 - Seventies University Guy Reads (2:25)
  • Chapter 2 - Sketch Book Art Kids (not Jon) (7:51)
  • Chapter 3 - Waiting For Godot (13:10)
  • Chapter 4 - The Existential Gun Shot (19:40)
  • Chapter 5 - No Sad Bears (21:47)
  • Chapter 6 - Part 2 (28:34)
  • Chapter 7 - A Girl and Her Skull (30:37)
  • Chapter 8 - A Tale to Remember (34:51)
  • Chapter 9 - Beanstack Featured Librarian (36:12)

Author Reading Challenge

Download the free reading challenge worksheet, or view the challenge materials on our helpdesk.

zoobean_podcast_challenge_2023_JonKlassen_Worksheet P1.   zoobean_podcast_challenge_2023_JonKlassen_Worksheet P2



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