Fashionistas who like to follow the crowd should read the latest book by super-talented artist Oliver Jeffers. They'd definitely learn a thing or two about having the courage to strike out and do something different.
The New Jumper is the first in Jeffers's new series about the Hueys, a group of characters who are all the same. They look the same, think the same and do the same things. Until one extraordinary day one of them decides to knit himself a new jumper. How on earth will the rest of the Hueys react? The Hueys’ name, incidentally, was inspired by Jeffers’s grandfather, who could never remember the names of his many grandchildren – so called all of them Huey.
In a nutshell, The New Jumper is a story about individuality. Even though the book is aimed at small children I’ve shown the book to several teenagers (the age when peer pressure to wear certain labels and listen to certain music really kicks in). And funnily enough, it has struck a chord with them all.
Jeffers, who grew up in Belfast but now lives in New York, certainly follows his own advice. His quirkily-illustrated books are totally different to most of the other children’s picture books on the market – and deserve the critical acclaim they’ve had.
I’ve been a fan of Jeffers’s work for a while. His books are perfect for the under-fives but his thought-provoking take on life appeals to older children too. His first story, Lost and Found, won a Nestle Children’s Book Prize Gold Award, but my favourite is Stuck, the zany tale of a little boy called Floyd. When Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree, he tries to dislodge it by throwing everything he can think of – from the kitchen sink to a passing milkman. Take a look if you get the chance – it’s one of those books that brings a smile to everyone’s face.
The New Jumper by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books, £10.99)