32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
When Bill wakes up he looks out the window and sees it is cloudy with a chance of rain. Not a good start to his day. And it doesn’t improve any with all sorts of mishaps happening. As it progresses what starts out as a small light grey mood develops into a bigger darker crankiness that follows him wherever he goes. Strangely, the angrier he gets the more things seem to go awry. And Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger dogging his footsteps from home to school, to class – even out on the playground and home again. It shares his bath and sleeps under his bed. No matter what, Mr Huff is THERE! Until…
This is a gentle, sensitive story that will resonate with children. Even though Mr Huff is a figment of Bill’s imagination, they will empathise with that feeling that there is some sort of black cloud following them around some days turning everything they touch to moosh. Author and illustrator Anna Walker, who also brought us Peggy, has used a very restrained palette which underscores the grey sort of day that Bill is having but which is lifted by the most exquisite little details that enrich both the text and the illustrations. Mr Huff is a grey blob with soft curves and almost a feeling of transparency and transience. His expression is quite neutral so that he is not threatening to the reader visually but he can be felt and the reader can sense the mood of melancholy that settles on Bill. He brings the saying “having the weight of the world on your shoulders’ to life.
Yet throughout, there is a feeling of optimism and hope and the end is just divine.
Often when children read books the characters are full of lightness, brightness and fun and so to encounter a character who has the sort of mood that they have doubtless experienced helps them see the reality of life that can be portrayed in stories. It can get them talking about their sadder feelings and how these are perfectly normal but that we can choose how we respond to things. It can be cloudy with a chance of rain or it can be cloudy with a chance of sunshine! The astute teacher will also listen and perhaps even pick up on the child whose moods are darker and more persistent – a possible sign of childhood depression which is more common than we realise. A valuable addition to the collection.