Their similarities didn't occur to me until I read them back to back. So far my son has demanded me to do so on subsequent readings.
Bark, George was a staple storytime activity. We were lucky to have a fantastic children's librarian who turned a stuffed dog into a puppet that swallowed tiny stuffed animals (cat, duck, pig, cow). It was just amazing.
Poor George is a puppy that can't bark: he can meow, quack, oink, and moo. Mother takes him to the vet who reaches down into George's mouth to pull out each animal. It's outrageous and I love to see this surprise on the faces of my kids. But there's one more surprise. In the end, George is asked to bark one more time... and he says "hello". WHA?
(pause) Then my son gasped, "He ate a person!?"
Me: "He's probably just saying "hello" to all those people on the street. He's being polite."
Him: "He ate a person."
I Want My Hat Back is distinguished as one of the most talked about picture books of 2011. Bear is looking for his hat. He asks all the animals if they have seen it, but they have not. When a deer asks the bear to describe the hat he realizes that he has seen his hat on the head of one of the previous animals. Bear confronts this animal, there's an intense staring contest between the two, and then we see bear sitting on the clump of grass that formerly held the thief animal. It's an intense scene. As an adult do you interject with a note on the laws of nature? Or do you let the story play itself out to the reader? My son giggles that "bear squished him with his butt!" even though two pages later bear mentions eating the offender. I think one of the best aspects of this type of picture book is that the reader brings his or her own information to the story. My son likes it now as it is. When he gets the joke later on, I hope he enjoys it all over again in a new way.
Also, the first time I read I Want My Hat Back, my 8 year old was there, too. I wondered if he would spoil the surprise of the animal with the hat, but he missed it himself. He had the same reaction bear had when it was figured out. He, of course, finds it totally hysterical that bear eats the thief. "I can't believe he ATE him! Ahaha hahahaa ha!"
Give your audience a really interesting storytime and pair this with Wolves by (the amazing) Emily Gravett. Heh. "Alternate vegetarian ending." Yes, we own that book as well.
Below is the Westin Woods/Scholastic video of Bark, George (not one of their best) and the book trailer for I Want My Hat Back.