Review – Mr Huff by Anna Walker

Mr Huff, Anna Walker (author, illus.), Penguin Viking, July 2015.

9780670078042Delicately explored in her books are often the themes of maintaining a sense of being, having belief in yourself and looking on the brighter side of life. With treasures including the ‘I Love’ series, Peggy, I Don’t Believe in Dragons, Hurry Up Alfie, and Alfie’s Lost Sharkie, Anna Walker has once again brilliantly captured a little ray of sunshine in the delightful, Mr Huff.  

As soon as Bill wakes up he is burdened with a gloomy scribble cloud above his head. His morning goes from bad to worse, with dog-chewed socks, soggy cereal and an uncooperative backpack. As Bill’s bad mood heightens, so does this growing sense of apprehension that overshadows his every move. It’s Mr Huff. Bill grumbles about Mr Huff’s presence at bathtime, bedtime, toilet breaks and has moments of attempted bravery to banish him. Whilst funny on the surface, we feel his pain. His internal struggle finally explodes like a raging storm. And then all is still. Bill eventually finds his calm, befriending the vast grey mass, and the sun is able to shine through the clouds. Mr Huff, the symbolic ‘worry’, has diminished, and we’re left with an ending that is bittersweet.

large_mr_huff_6Anna Walker has so masterfully been able to convey Bill’s emotional journey, from his feelings of anxiety and misplacement through his progression to a more positive outlook, in her sensitive, thought-provoking text. But not without injecting that gorgeous sense of humour that makes her books so engaging and loveable. As for the illustrations, naturally they are whimsical, enchanting and exude personality. If you were able to cast your very own eyes on the visual feast displayed at her recent Mr Huff Exhibition in Melbourne, like I did, you would appreciate the absolute skill of Anna’s individually painted, cut and pasted pieces, multiple textures and media (including paper, fabric, watercolours, etching and woodblock prints). Just incredible!

Mr Huff is a gentle, touching and multi-layered story of embracing one’s feelings and finding beauty in the world. It’s a charming and meaningful book for both young children and adults who will ensure that Mr Huff visits them again and again.  

Read the exclusive interview with Anna Walker, here!

View Anna Walker’s ‘Mr Huff’ Behind the Studio Door and Book Trailer here.
See my experience at the Mr Huff Exhibition here.

Review – Hurry Up Alfie by Anna Walker

hurry-up-alfieHere comes Alfie! Bursting onto the scene. So much to do, so little time. Alfie is plenty busy… too busy to get ready to go out.

With classics including the I Love series, I Don’t Believe in Dragons and Peggy, and her beautiful illustrations for Jane Godwin’s All Through the Year, Starting School and Today We Have No Plans, award-winning author / illustrator Anna Walker knows kids. And here is no exception with her easily-distracted, stubborn and fun-loving crocodile in her latest release, Hurry Up Alfie.

‘Alfie’s in no hurry to get up… until he finds out he’s going to the park!’

But in typical kid fashion, Alfie’s handstands are more important than eating breakfast, as is chasing Steve McQueen the cat. And looking for undies unexpectedly leads to the discoveries of missing items and different ways to use your pyjamas. What else?!

Alfie thinks he’s finally ready. It’s coming up to midday on the clock, and an ever-so-quickly-losing-patience-parent informs him that it is not an umbrella needed but rather some clothes!

The battle to get dressed eventually ends when a compromise is made, and parent and child make their way to meet Bert at the park; clothes, umbrella and all. However, there’s sure to be a re-match when it is time to go home!

hurry up alfie page 2As a mother two young girls, the struggle to get out of the house on time is all too familiar. Anna Walker similarly understands these daily pleasures and the joys of negotiating with an ‘independent’ pre-schooler, with so much warmth and humour. Her trademark illustrative style of watercolours, pencil, textured patterns and photo collages once again so perfectly compliment the gentle and whimsical storyline, as well as adding to the detail and movement, and making each scene so real.

Hurry Up Alfie is an adorably funny read that rings true for any household with young children. It’s a gorgeous story about asserting one’s independence, learning to focus on a task, self-expression and cooperating with others, but also enjoying the simple pleasures in life. If only we could all be so care-free like Alfie!  

Review by Romi Sharp


It’s school holidays here in Australia and a great time for readers of all ages to explore the wonderful world of books during the break.

In today’s post I’m looking at three quite different books from Scholastic that are all standouts in their own right.

The Farmer’s Hat

The Farmer’s Hat is a uniquely Australian picture book with a text that’s ideal for reading aloud.

‘What happened to my hat?’ asked the farmer. ‘I had a fine hat, a well-worn hat, that smelled of hay and grass and sweat. it was full of dreams and schemes, that hat. What happened to my hat?”

There are lots of active words to carry the text along, following the hat as it whooshes and whirls and floats and wafts around the farm.

Author, Kim L Barnes lives on beef-cattle farm, which is probably why this story is so authentic.

There are hilarious illustrations by CBCA-shortlisted illustrator, Andrew Joyner. I particularly enjoyed the humorous pics of the Australian bush animals in The Farmer’s Hat,  and I’m sure that kids will too.

This book is an example of where a simple idea like a missing hat can be turned into a funny and entertaining story for young children.

The Farmer’s Hat is published in soft cover format by Omnibus Books and is for children aged four years and older.

Monster Book of Drawing

The Monster Book of Drawing is an amazing book by Marc McBride for kids who love to draw – especially those who love to create pictures from the fantasy realm.

There are 192 pages of great examples from this master illustrator who created the covers for Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest books and more recently, J E Fison’s Hazard River series.

Marc takes kids through step-by-step from basic outline to black and white sketches and full colour illustrations.

The book comes in a hardback binder and is divided into three sections – Monster Battles, Mythical Creatures and Dangerous Beasts.

This book is for fans of all things dangerous, including vampires, werewolves, monsters and sharp-clawed beasts.

It is recommended for young artists aged 8 and over.

I don’t believe in dragons

I don’t believe in dragons is the first full-size picture book from bestselling and award-winning author/illustrator, Anna Walker.

This quirky, beautifully illustrated book is full of gentle humour as we follow the story of Jack who is the only one in his class who doesn’t believe in dragons.

The dragon in this book is so cute and not at all scary, but will it be able to convince Jack to play along with the game?

I don’t believe in dragons is a 32 page hardback picture book for children aged four and onwards.

Shrieking Violet

This book is cleverly written and illustrated by Emma Quay.

It’s ideal for children aged 4+ who are an older sibling and have been feeling a bit left out since their younger brother or sister arrived.

When you have the noisiest, loudest, messiest sister, it can be hard to be noticed. But in spite of all this, the big sister in Shrieking Violet finds a way to be the star of the show.

This is a very realistic portrayal of sibling relationships at this age and the personal battles that small children go through trying to assert their own identity.

In her endearing, colourful illustrations, Emma Quay brings to life the fun, silliness and occasional frustration of life with a younger sibling.

Emma Quay is the acclaimed author/illustrator of Reggie and Lu and has also been a shortlisted and notable illustrator in the CBCA awards.

Shrieking Violet comes in a robust, hard cover and easy to handle format.