You could be mistaken for thinking this is a simple book by Oliver Jeffers. He has certainly stepped away from using the rich, lustrous colours we’ve come to love in his picture books. But, any sign of simplicity ends with the predominately colourless illustrations; the meaning behind the story of The Hueys in The New Jumper (The New Jumper) is incredibly philosophical.
Jeffers’ illustrations retain the same level of quirkiness and charisma, but the choice to use fewer colours is certainly symbolic. The lead pencil sketches are representative of a society (The Hueys) which lacks individuality and personality. The Hueys all look the same and think the same. Every now and then a page is filled with a pop of colour- a sign that changes are taking place in this society.
Rupert is a Huey. One day, he breaks out from the uniformity of the crowd and knits a bright, new, orange jumper. He is the only one with a jumper and others begin to talk.
After a short period of rumour-mongering, the Hueys all begin to admire Rupert’s jumper and individuality. They like the idea of being different, and one by one they get a jumper; one just like Rupert’s.
The Hueys all think they’re being different, but the group-shot image of the Hueys together tells a very different story. The use of the contrasting text and image on this page creates a clever, tongue-in-cheek message.
The endpapers are the highlight of the book for me. Readers are left with a wordless illustration, and in doing so, Jeffers’ had created a gap between the final page of the story and the endpaper illustration. The gap allows your imagination to run wild with ideas about what happens to the Hueys once the story ends. I suppose it is another symbolic gesture of Oliver’s that societies are ever-evolving.
I have an inkling that I’m not the only one who will love the endpapers because Oliver has created a special website based on the final illustration, where readers can create their very own, unique Huey (Mine is below). You can create your own here.
Jeffers’ storytelling is clever. He doesn’t do the hard work for you. Instead he makes you read between the lines and think thoughtfully about the message.
The New Jumper is a wonderful springboard into a discussion on identity. It will encourage you to explore and think about the nature of people; where you fit into the mix of leaders and sheep; how you define yourself as unique or similar to others; what you lead yourself to believe about your actions and how you grow and develop over time.
Although my 2.5 year old daughter is entertained by the story, it is this catalyst for deep, philosophical discussions that makes The The New Jumper just as (if not more) relevant to older children, tweens, teenagers and adults.
With a title like The Hueys in The New Jumper, I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll be reading a little more about the Hueys in some of Oliver’s future books. Yay!
Format: Hardcover (Also available for iphone and ipad)
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, April 2012
RRP: $24.99 (aud)
Suitable for ages: 4+