Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Mr Huff - a treasure for all ages

A few busy weeks ago Mr Huff, by Anna Walker, was announced as this year’s CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year.  It is certainly a deserving winner of this prestigious award, but it is also so much more than this award implies.

I first came across Mr Huff last year when it arrived in my hands, freshly published. I already had a soft spot for Anna’s beautiful illustrations and gentle stories, but this felt different to her other beautiful, often whimsical creations.  This was a picture book that dealt with personal emotions on a level that is rarely seen in books for this age group.

I was delighted but not at all surprised to see it short-listed for this year’s awards.  That said, I was a little unsure of how my Kinder students would receive it, and thought I would need to do quite a bit of talking to draw out the meaning across my other early childhood classes.  What a revelation it was to read this aloud to these young students.

Not only did they hit the nail on head when asked what they thought the main message of the story was; “I think it’s about finding the sunshine in your life, Mrs Marston,” but they also embraced the story and what it meant to them personally.  A grade 2 student quietly approached me during our Book of the Year voting session to explain that Mr Huff was her favourite book because when she got home the day I read it to her class, her mum told her that her uncle had passed away and Mr Huff had helped her to “not feel so sad.”  Wow!  Tears in my eyes! That moment will stay with me for a very long time!

Last week I read this amazing book to my Grade 3-6 classes, and shared Anna’s blog on creating Mr Huff.  Their responses were equally remarkable.  To have a story that deals with emotional issues in such a powerful yet relatable manner, across the full range of Primary School ages is just phenomenal.  My older students were able to see that Bill gradually took control of his own emotional state, without relying on anyone else to buoy him back up.  The conversations that came from this were inspiring and the sharing that went on about what each child does to put themselves back on track emotionally was so open and thoughtful.
I can see Mr Huff being just as valuable in a High School setting, and the recent CBCA Book of the Year Award provides a great reason to share it now.  I am sure the dialogue it opens up for your students will be as powerful and important as that which I have witnessed at my school.
If you haven’t yet read Mr Huff, please do.  It certainly is book that is a treasure for all ages. And if you know of other Australian children's books that deal with emotional issues why not share them with us?


Jessica Marston
K-6 Teacher-Librarian at Hagley Farm School, and parent
Twitter: @marston_jessica

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