Quote of the Month

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

If Not You, Then Who?

When a squabble starts it can be easily resolved or last for generations.  Some say its cause might be the weather, making people crankier than usual.  Some look skyward, blaming the full moon.  It could be for a tiny slight unknown except by one party or it could be for a huge infraction known to many.

There are those who enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing; the enjoyment of intelligent debating makes them happy. Then again, it could be a disagreement between the Hueys.   Yes, friends the Hueys introduced to readers in The Hueys in The New Sweater  (Philomel Books, May 24, 2012) have returned.  Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, The Hueys in It Wasn't Me (Philomel Books, an imprint of penguin Group (USA), is a clever personality piece in the puzzle known as the world of Hueys.

The thing about the Hueys...
...was that most of the time they got along.

Sometimes, the Hueys did not get along.  In fact when Gillespie comes upon a group of five, they are all talking at once.  This is not a polite conversation but full-blown bickering.

Gillespie, being his curious self, wants to know the root of this quarrel.  Well, I guess you know the current shouting stops and shifts.  Now the blame game begins in earnest.  Fingers are being pointed and denials escalate.

Voices get louder as not one of the Hueys agrees with another.  Gillespie attempts to get their attention. His single word is lost in the ever-increasing volume of verbal exchanges. Finally shouting himself---


Gillespie is greeted with silence.

Now he can again ask his initial question.  Gillespie is a Huey unlike the others.  Gillespie needs to learn.  Their mumbled answers prompt a statement from the wise-beyond-his-years Gillespie that sends everyone running and readers bursting out in uncontrollable giggles or maybe groans.

What works well in this book, even more so than in the first Huey volume, is the inter-play of narrative with dialogue.  The narrative makes observations but the ruckus created by the Hueys' words encourages reader involvement.  I daresay there's probably not a single individual who has not uttered those very words at one time or at least heard someone else say them.  Oliver Jeffers has the artful use of language firmly in place.

Making excellent use of white space and a bold, bright blue Oliver Jeffers makes sure readers, even those who have not met the Hueys yet, will pick up this newest title.  On the back he cheerfully invites us to investigate this story but to also explore the first title by using an illustration from the first of the multitude of Hueys gathered around the microphone and speaker.  A single Huey is holding up a sign in the lower corner which displays the ISBN.

Readers will appreciate how Jeffers includes the opening and closing endpapers as visual parts of the story.  Several speech bubbles connecting two or more of the Hueys depict the motivation for the first round of controversy.  (I won't disclose the bubbles' contents in order to keep from spoiling the story for you.)  Even Gillespie is making arm motions in the corner as a form of foreshadowing on the opening endpapers.

White space acts as a canvas on all the pages except for three; one in peach, another in a darker shade of blue and a third in mint green.  For the most part when the Hueys are shown on the white pages they are wearing colorful one piece outfits covering everything but their faces.  When the background changes they appear as black and white figures...except for two very important two-page spreads.

It's truly a gift as to how Jeffers makes readers love these characters shaped like eggs with stick figure legs and arms.  With perfect placement of his pencil on the page, a variety of emotions are conveyed. I think one of my favorite two pages is when Gillespie asks his final question.  It sums up the fantastic flow, the impeccable pacing, found in this title.

I cannot stop smiling.  I have read The Hueys in It Wasn't Me by Oliver Jeffers over and over.  Every single time I burst out laughing.  Sometimes we know exactly why we find ourselves in the middle of an argument but even if we forget like the Hueys do, let's hope Gillespie comes strolling by offering up his sage advice.

Please follow the link to Oliver Jeffers' website embedded in his name for more information about his other books and professional endeavors.  Here are several videos you might enjoy watching.

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