How do you explain the concept of ‘is the glass half full or half empty’ to children? Let Mr Huff help.
Mr Huff, the latest picture book from Anna Walker, is essentially a story about the happy and glum in each of our lives, told through the use of Mr Huff, a large, grey, hard-to-miss character that dominates little Bill’s day.
Bill’s day starts badly – he can’t find his socks, he spills his cereal and the weather forecast says ‘Cloudy, with a chance of rain’. And then Mr Huff appears – dark and ominous like a thunder cloud. Mr Huff makes things difficult for Bill and despite Bill’s efforts to ignore him, Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger. Then, in a fit of anger, both Bill and Mr Huff stop and, as I say to my own children, they ‘take a moment’.
I won’t reveal how Bill’s bad day is resolved, or the fate of Mr Huff, but needless to say you’re in the safe and gentle hands of Anna Walker and the ending is sweet and thoughtful. The final line of the story – “The day was cloudy, with a chance of sunshine” offers ample opportunity for a discussion about outlook and attitude.
Walker said of Mr Huff, “If you have felt clouds when the sky is blue, this book is for you”. It’s a beautiful summary because it captures the glumness we sometimes feel, as compared to deeper-rooted anxiety, or anger or sadness induced by a specific event. That said, the character of Mr Huff is a useful starting point for a discussion about anxiety, simply because he is so marvellously visual and impacts all aspects of Bill’s life, even the most mundane of activities (like going to the toilet and taking a bath).
As always, Walker’s delicate, distinctive illustrations charm – simple but expressive faces (particularly on Mr Huff whose small eyes and a line for a mouth convey an array of emotions) and the subtle use of colour (neutrals and grey tones when Mr Huff dominates Bill’s day and the introduction of colour as Mr Huff shrinks) is faultless.
Mr Huff is suitable for readers aged three years and over. Find it in all good book stores or online at Readings.