Firstly, Walker's wondrous illustrations and whimsical words have been a favourite of mine and many for a long time. Her last picture book, Peggy, was a gorgeous ramble through Melbourne Streets as a chook was carried by the wind far from home. Perusing it regularly almost makes up for the fact that I am located far from the gleaming copper and delicious coffee of Collins Street.
In this new book, a boy, Bill, wakes up feeling out of sorts. He gazes at a sky that looks grey and foreboding. Nothing goes quite right in the morning and his mood darkens. So now we meet Mr Huff, who seems oddly familiar, kind of like an awkward relative who hangs around and isn't exactly a welcome addition to the family circle. Mr Huff appears and follows Bill, like a burden of bad feeling that Bill can't quite name and can't shake either. Mr Huff doesn't exactly look scary, but he is big and overbearing - literally taking up too much space in Bill's life. It makes Bill angry and upset that Mr Huff has seemingly taken over his life, inserting himself in to every scene. Mr Huff isn't impervious to the affect he is having on Bill. In fact he is sad too. Bill sees Mr Huff in a new light. Slowly but surely he takes charge of the situation, and as he does light begins to shine through and colour returns to Bill's world. A new day brings a feeling of optimism and quiet happiness.
Walker's delightful drawings of city life capture details of books in shelves, coloured quilts, roaming pets, street trees and puddles on pavements. This is a poignant tale of a boy fighting with emotions he can't control and the grey figure of Mr Huff who many of us recognise. He certainly seems to have taken up residence in our house in recent weeks. So it's nice to read and realise that a) when you're feeling down, you're not the only one who's ever felt like that; and b) bad times pass and the sun will come again.
Did I mention the big kids all went back to school today and Arch and I made a coffee cake and sat in the sun for morning tea? Our coughs are not quite as raspy and I'm sure if I looked Jetstar or Virgin might have a deal on trips to Melbourne... things are definitely looking up!
Thank you to PenguinRandomHouse for sending me a copy of Mr Huff by Anna Walker - available from all good bookstores and online.