Monday, 31 August 2015

Mr Huff

Mr Huff written and illustrated by Anna Walker (Penguin Viking) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780670078042                                                  
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Contained in the pages of this wise picture book is a wonderful idea which is sure to appeal to many children (even adults)! Bill is a boy who’s having a bad day. Absolutely nothing goes right for him at home or at school. When he awakes it’s ‘cloudy, with a chance of rain’. Hovering over him, like a storm cloud is a black shape – like a cloud, one which follows him all morning. By recess at school, the cloud has grown into an enormous size and has tiny feet that continue to follow the poor boy.

Bill’s unable to articulate the thing that’s following him.
Relentless, the thing – given the name Mr Huff – follows Bill to bed and – hatefully – is there the next day. Bill wants to be rid of it, and it is only when he accepts Mr Huff, taking it by its puny hand, is he able to do so. Next day, happily, ‘the day was cloudy, with a chance of sunshine.’

For any child who is finding life difficult – indeed for anyone suffering the blues or even a black depression – this book was especially written and illustrated for them. As with most people in Bill’s situation, the sufferer does attempt to be rid of the heaviness. But as you read on, the gentle message of this book is revealed: only when you confront your feelings are you able to go forward as Bill does.

In keeping with the heavy mood Bill feels for most of the story, Walker has kept her watercolour palette dark and simple. There are splashes of colour and even some humour (the enormous Mr Huff sleeping under Bill’s bed, determined to stay in his life) so there is always hope.
This is a splendid, poignant book which can be read simply as text, or it can be used by parents and/or therapists to help a small child overcome his or her unhappiness. My only criticism of the book is that the typeface is far too small, especially for young readers.

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