Mr Huff by Anna Walker
Penguin Viking, 2015. ISBN 9780670078042
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Depression, Mental illness, Childhood fears, Bad hair days. Poor old Bill just can't seem to get rid of the cloud that hangs over his day. Right from the start things go wrong. He loses a sock, his cereal is soggy, he spills the milk as he trips over his bag. The day just gets worse. He is late for school and someone seems to be sitting in his place. The cloud which follows him seems to get bigger and he tries to talk to someone about it but the words simply cannot come out. He tries to ignore it but that does not work. He tries to be brave to get rid of it but that doesn't work. But when he takes Mr Huff by the hand and they go home, walking through puddles, smiling at the other children, watching the friendly dog in the street Bill accepts Mr Huff and the next day he wakes to a cloudy day but with the promise of sunshine.
This is a wonderful story, seemingly a simple tale of Bill accepting the cloud which sometimes hangs over him, the tale expands to a story about the highs and lows of life, the depression we sometimes feel when things do not go our way, the clouds and sunshine which make up all of our days. What a treat for young children to read, seeing themselves in each of the pages, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, learning that this is a condition of life. The glowering menacing Mr Huff looms larger as the story progresses, but changes once tears fall from his face. He is no longer the thing to be voided, rejected or hidden, but an integral part of the boy and his day.
The watercolour and pen illustrations suit the story, with their emphasis on home and the everyday things around the child. The street scenes are full of the ordinary things of life, things we take for granted but are there to support us when blue. A delightful story full of moments which are easily recognised by a reader of any age, and may initiate much discussion in the classroom and at home.