Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Orange" You Glad You're Different

As they say, if I've heard it once I've heard it a hundred times from my Dad, "Just because everyone else jumps off the cliff, doesn't mean you have to jump."  Individuality was a virtue in our household.  So in my mind, you can never have too many books that highlight the importance of being exactly who you are, of doing exactly what you believe you should do or not being afraid to stick out like a sore thumb.

As an author/illustrator, Oliver Jeffers has distinguished himself with each and every picture book to his credit by winning numerous awards and honors.  His stories are surprising, versatile and just plain different in their singular approach with narrative and illustration.  The Hueys in The New Sweater (Philomel Books), the first in an expected series, Jeffers's newest title, was released on May 24, 2012.

The thing about the Hueys...
...was that they were all the same.

Not only do the Hueys look the same, with the exception of the younger ones who are smaller, but they think and do everything the others are doing.  And there are not just a few Hueys but lots and lots of Hueys as if they've popped off an assembly line.  Things are about to change because one of the Hueys, named Rupert, has an idea, one that none of them has ever had before.

This fresh thought has him doing an activity unique to the Hueys' way of life; Rupert is knitting. Not only is he knitting but he is knitting an orange sweater with two distinct zig-zags, one red, the other white, right in the middle of the garment. Up to this point the Hueys have gone unclothed.  A sweater?!

Of course in the realm of Hueydom his new creation is viewed with whispered conversations, shock and crying; until he goes to Gillespie.  Gillespie is looking at Rupert, wondering what he might look like in a snazzy article of yarn such as that.  He's thinking different is a pretty good thing.

Before you can say knit one, purl two, Rupert and Gillespie are looking like and as happy as two peas in a pod, identical in appearance.  What was odd when one does something is stylish when two do it.  Soon it's an orange sweater craze.

As far as the eye can see, different, a la Rupert, has completely caught on.  Readers already know Rupert is no ordinary Huey.  Will he do anything else?  If so, what's next?  He might be on to something.

Oliver Jeffers is a genius with pencils used in these illustrations, along with a bit of orange as stated in the verso.  Pristine white front endpapers show five Huey poses done in a light black or gray; casual, moseying around.  The title page still in shades of black on white have a couple of Hueys chatting, cups and saucers in hand. 

Throughout the remainder of the book the Hueys are shown engaged in activities, thinking and displays of emotion; always drawn in the same color but the background shifts from white to sand to pink to mint to sky usually a single page unless illuminating an important part of the text; the color then extends across the center to a double. Jeffers's deft skill in depicting his figures' feelings and movement with a single line is extraordinary.  His placement of visuals on the pages draws the reader into and along with the story.

I could not help but compare the Hueys with those eggs you can open up in the middle, prizes revealed.  In the beginning I imagine opening them up to emptiness or complete sameness, except for Rupert.  When you open up Rupert, inside you see the world; a sea of endless possibilities.  I love The Hueys in The New Sweater written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers for its delightful, novel introduction to the perception of being different and to an endearing group of beings.

Follow the link attached to Oliver Jeffers name above to go to his official website.  This link is for his author page at HarperCollins.  Here is the book trailer from HarperCollinsCanada.  Notice the change of sweater to jumper.  The video beneath this is one of several author videos posted by PenguinYoungReaders on YouTube.

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