Sunday, February 20, 2011

Umbrella Summer By Lisa Graff

So, I think going in if I had realized this was written for upper elementary (which I now think it is), I might have liked it a little more.  There are times when Annie comes off a little like Junie B. Jones, and it caught me off guard.

I liked the sweet characters.  Annie is a 10 year old, who has become overly cautious since her older brother died.  She wears a lot of bandaids, wears knee pads and a helmet even after she gets off her bike.  It is a sad story of how this tragedy is affecting her family.  She offends her best friend, snubs a boy in the neighborhood, and ultimately befriends an older woman who moves in across the street. 

I liked Annie, I think she was an interesting character.  I loved when she got her hands on a huge medical reference book, and how she poured over it. Or when she describes what another girl is wearing then adds, "I wish I had a polka-dot headband."

There are some really sad moments when her parents are failing her because they are consumed with their grief.  Like when her mom tells Annie to say one thing she is happy about, and Annie thinks hard, then comes up with a good list.  But then her worries about Annie are overshadowed with her own sadness and she doesn't go to the picnic.  If she had gone, it would have giving Annie something to be happy about.  So sad.

This story does end on a better note.  Annie's parents wake up a bit, and having sweet Mrs. Finch as a friend helps Annie deal with her sadness.  The title comes from the analogy that Mrs. Finch tells Annie.  "So there you are, with your umbrella still open above you, and there's no more rain at all.  You may not be getting wet, but you're missing the sunshine."   She also tells Annie, "It's easier to be worried than to be sad."   It ends with reconciliations, fun, and sunshine.

I would recommend this book.  I passed it on to my 11-year-old, and he liked it OK.  I think a girl his age would like it more.  It deals with adult themes, but I think in a younger way.  I would have liked it in elementary school for sure.

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