The Hueys in The New Sweater by Oliver Jeffers
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: When I saw Oliver Jeffers’ new book at our public library I grabbed it instantly. The focus group and I had loved Stuck and I was eager to see what wackiness Jeffers was hatching now. I wasn’t disappointed. Not only is The Hueys in The New Sweater (Penguin/Philomel 2012) a terrific and oddball little book, it is the start of a series! Hurray – more Hueys to come!
What ARE the Hueys? Well, who knows egg-sactly, except that they are oval, all the same and there are many many of them. And that seems fine until the day Rupert knitted himself an orange sweater and “stood out like a sore thumb!” Most of the Hueys were horrified but then being different started to catch on. Those who have survived parenting adolescents in particular will love the fact that being different to the Hueys means everyone being different in the same way – until one day Rupert discovers hats.
I’m not sure what I love most about this book – the reassuring message that being yourself is OK, the sly observations about our culture’s ideas of expressing differences or the charmingly eccentric illustrations. There is a lot of white space and the pencil-sketch drawings make that different orange sweater really stand out. I think this is a great book to use with older kids as it opens the door to really interesting discussions. The focus group had mixed responses to the book. The 9-year-olds liked it and got the ideas with a little prompting. The 7-year-old didn’t get it but enjoyed the illustrations anyway. All of us are eager to see what the Hueys will do next.
Cindy: Lynn’s diligent surveillance of our public library’s new book shelf pays off again! Here’s another perfect picture book to use with middle schoolers. Do you remember us raving about Spork? My middle schoolers are still checking that out. Like Spork, The Hueys in the New Sweater provides a springboard for some interesting discussion or journal entries about differences. This time, the emphasis is on the quest to be unique, to stand out, to be different. Certainly a theme that middle schoolers (and even high schoolers) can summon some enthusiasm for. But the discussion can include trending…how does a trend start…what makes it fade out? Are you different if you try to stand out but end up looking like everyone else? Great opportunities await the middle school teacher who uses this book creatively with her students. And, of course, younger readers will like it a lot.
Time for a little griping that has nothing to do with the author/illustrator or the publisher of this fine book, but with the folks (local or vendor) who placed the security tag in the back of the book blocking the artwork that ends the story. Lynn has our focus group well trained to read a book from cover to cover and many illustrators are making that practice more fun when they extend the story throughout the whole book. (Well, fun for the reader if not the tech services department!) We process most of our books in-house and my secretaries carefully position labels and stamps and tape in ways that don’t hide the book contents.
Check out the closing page and back inside cover of the library copy of Huey. What hat is the middle character wearing? Who can tell with the security tag covering it! Perhaps the system would collapse if the tag were moved two inches up or down? Perhaps I just want this book to be DIFFERENT. Attention Tech Services staff: You have permission to alter the routine. Wear an orange sweater. Don’t obstruct art! Promise you’ll try and I won’t talk about the library ownership stamp that is covering part of the illustration on the title page. Now I’m grumpy. I think I need to reread Jeffers’ charming story and calm down before I have to go pull out my “Free the Bound Periodicals” t-shirt and start a full revolution!