Author/Illustrator: Anna Walker
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Comments: Mr Huff is the latest offering from much loved author/illustrator Anna Walker, who has already won hearts with characters such as Peggy and Alfie. Bill wakes up with Mr Huff hanging overhead. As the day progresses things go from bad to worse, and all the while Mr Huff grows… until Bill learns to embrace his own feelings.
Walker handles the difficult subject matter sensitively through illustration, and Mr Huff is a cleverly constructed character. With his tiny eyes and thin-set mouth he is the embodiment of sadness (yet with an endearing quality you would expect in a picture book). Depression is often metaphorically depicted as aggressive or beastly – but I think this melancholic representation is more accurate.
Depression affects many families, including my own, so my children are very aware of what it means for the clouds to hang over someone’s head. We did have to talk about how the ending of this story differs from real life, but Mr Huff is none the less a welcome addition to our bookshelf. Books like this are so important as they give children both the opportunity and the language to discuss heavy topics in age appropriate ways. Highly recommended for families.
Parent Tip: Explore the endpapers (inside the front and back covers) and discuss: Where is Bill in the endpaper at the start of the book? (Upstairs, looking out on the street.) Where is Mr Huff? (Upstairs with him.) What about in the final endpaper? (Bill is down on the street playing. Mr Huff has disappeared.) Why do you think Anna Walker did this?
*I received a review copy of Mr Huff courtesy of Penguin. No payment was received for review and all comments are based on my own professional opinion.