Thursday 13 December 2012

The Hueys in "The New Jumper" by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Oh dear. Oh dearie dear. When we finally spotted "The Hueys in the New Jumper" at our local library, we got quite excited. The chance to dip into a new Oliver Jeffers book, something really unique looking and different - and something with a great message that 'different is good' behind it? Surely a shoe in for book of the week, but a rather stern-faced Charlotte said "No Daddy, that is NOT book of the week" and alas, something I thought would be a massive hit has sort of blown up in my face.

"The Hueys in The New Jumper" (or Sweater depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, apparently) went down like a lead balloon and I'm a bit puzzled why.

It's certainly not because the adorable little Hueys aren't great little characters (great enough to warrant a sequel, "It Wasn't Me" coming up in 2013). It wasn't because the story wasn't funny and engaging. Perhaps it was merely that we always have such high expectations for Oliver Jeffers' stuff that, in this case, different isn't great and different is too different for Charlotte.

In the story, The Hueys live in comfortable ignorance of difference. They all look the same, think the same things, eat the same food, do the same things day in day out. But when one Huey knits himself a bright orange jumper, he instantly stands out from the crowd.

Some Hueys can't abide change (they must work in Universities!) and are repelled by the huey in his bright orange jumper. But others start thinking how cool it looks, and soon want to dress like that themselves.

Of course, what happens next is that more and more hueys take up the knitting needles and knit themselves identical sweaters, and soon - sadly - once again every one is the same.

Or are they? The twist at the end is brilliant.

I'm going to plug away with this one and Charlotte - she has been spoilt by Oliver Jeffers' utterly brilliant books like "Stuck", "The Way Back Home" and "the Incredible Book Eating Boy" so perhaps I'll win her round to the Huey way of thinking. Different is good, different should be celebrated and even when a different looking Oliver Jeffers book turns up, it can be a very very good thing.

Charlotte's best bit: She did at least like the 'Baby Huey' and the twist at the end. Which I won't spoil but made for some very cute end papers.

Daddy's favourite bit: The thing I admire most about Jeffers' books is the quiet message that underpins the story, it's not shouted or clamoured about, it's subtle and it's there and it's usually a message worth hearing. Vive la difference!