Anna Walker, Mr Huff , Penguin, 26 June 2015, 32pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 978067078042
Mr Huff appears on the front cover as a huge grey shape, like a dark cloud, looming over a small boy. We then encounter the front endpapers, which are different to the back ones. The differences provide important clues about the story and would be a good way to invite young children to explore and then share ideas about what they think the story might be. Huff is in the front scene but not at the back and this could further initiate discussion before reading.
We meet Bill (the little boy from the cover) as he wakes up to a cloudy day and things just don’t go right for him – he can’t find his favourite socks, spills the milk, has soggy cereal and all the while Mr Huff is growing bigger to reflect Bill’s “bad feeling about the day”. The feeling gets worse at school and Mr Huff gets even bigger. Things come to a climax and Bill’s despair is reflected in Mr Huff’s eyes. This is the turning point and Bill takes action to deal with his feelings.
This is a very good analogy for helping children identify how it feels to be worried or sad when things go wrong and how to possibly deal with such emotions by seeing things in a positive way. The text is very simple and well placed within the illustrations. There are plenty of details in the illustrations to explore in order to further engage young children. Suitable for the early years of school. Teacher Notes and Activities can be found on the Lamont Books website.
reviewed by Julie Long