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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Hueys in THE NEW JUMPER, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Harper, 2012. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"There were many, many of them...
and they all looked the same,
thought the same...
and did the same things...
until the day one of them
- Rupert was his name -
knitted a nice new jumper."

It is a deceptively simple story about a group of beings; colorless artwork to begin, little text, repetitive structures. It is, however, deeper than an initial quick glimpse.

Oliver Jeffers chooses a colorless palette to help his readers see the Hueys as they are. The lead pencil sketches show endless rows of order and sameness. Every single one of the Hueys is precisely the same as the next one. Nothing sets one apart from the other, no color, no style, no difference in thought. The illustrations clearly portray the masses as an identical society. Even their conversations are blah....well, 'bla, bla, blabity, bla'.

Upon looking closely, readers will note signs of color. The announcement from the radio is pastel blue. The background for one of the pages is a light pink. And then, we meet Rupert. He is not content with his lot in life. So he knits himself a bright orange jumper (aka sweater in NA). He seems delighted with it, and he attracts attention from those who are none too pleased with his chosen color. In fact, he causes quite a stir.

Gillespie, another Huey, is interested in Rupert's new look. So, he knits a jumper to match. Now, two of the Hueys are different! You know where we are headed, right? It isn't long until Rupert has another brainwave, and perhaps the status quo will change all over again.

Don't miss the endpapers. They are such an integral part of the story being told. Nothing needs to be said; the meaning is very clear. It leaves readers to think independently, and to perhaps take pencil (or colored pencil, or crayon, or watercolor) in hand and imagine a Huey of a different ilk. It never ceases to amaze me what an artist can do with just a few lines to show expression and emotion that children easily understand. Oliver Jeffers is masterful at it!

I'm told this is the first in a projected series of four books about the Hueys. Can't wait to see what this author has in store for us.

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