From the moment Bill wakes up and looks at the grey sky outside, he knows that it’s not going to be a good day. He can’t find his favourite socks, he spills his milk, his cereal gets gross and soggy, and the little grey cloud that’s following him gets larger and larger and larger. As the day goes on, Bill starts to feel worse and worse, and when adults ask him what’s wrong, Bill can’t find words to describe what’s he experiencing – he just feels sad. Bill can’t seem to find any way to get rid of the dreary, grey feeling. What can a child do when they’re being followed by Mr. Huff?
Anna Walker’s beautiful, deceptively simple picture book is a sensitive portrayal of complex childhood emotions. It’s so important that caregivers feel comfortable talking to children about emotions and mental health and well-being, and support them as they develop the vocabulary to express and work through their feelings in healthy, positive ways. Children will undoubtedly experience periods of darkness and sadness in their lives, and stories like Mr. Huff can comfort young readers as children see themselves and their experiences portrayed in the pictures. Emotions, both good and bad, are a normal part of being human, and should never be something to be ashamed of or guilty about. As Bill discovers, trying to ignore or repress feelings rarely leads to long-term health and happiness.
Mr. Huff is a thoughtful picture book that can encourage discussions and conversations about mental health, emotions, “the blues”, even depression and mental illness, and as such is a welcome addition to the roster of emotion-themed picture books.
Anna Walker is an award-winning author/illustrator who was born in Sydney and is now based in Melbourne.