Monday, March 21, 2011

A Torrent of Good Books

Before I became a parent, I had no idea that an umbrella is the perfect gift for a three-year-old.  But it is.  You can never have too many - they always break, or get lost.  And they are always a hit.  One of the reasons preschoolers love them so is, I think, because umbrellas give them a tiny taste of independence.

That's the tack Taro Yashima takes in her delightful Umbrella.  Momo receives an umbrella (as well as rubber boots) for her third birthday but, much to her dismay, a streak of sunny days follows.  When the rain finally comes, Momo is excited but also knows she must "walk straight, like a grown-up lady." Yashima describes the sound of the rain beautifully: "Pon polo, pon polo, polo polo pon polo."  And, as the narrator wistfully recalls, "It was not only the first day in her life that [Momo] used her umbrella, it was also the first day in her life that she walked alone, without holding either her mother's or her father's hand."  Any parent can relate to the combination of pride in and mourning at a child's new-found independence.

Yellow Umbrella, a wordless book by Jae Soo Liu, comes with a CD of music composed by Dong Il Sheen especially to accompany it.  The book opens with an aerial view of the title yellow umbrella and follows it, as it is joined by more and more umbrellas, on a journey to what eventually turns out to be school.  The illustrations, with solid-color umbrellas standing out against the gray sky and sidewalk, are beautiful in their simplicity.  However, the author-illustrator's message that under their umbrellas, children's "physical differences disappear" is lost.  The music, which to me did sound like raindrops, suggested ballet to my five-year-old.

In Il Sung Na's The Thingamabob, an elephant discovers an umbrella, but can't figure out what it is or how it is used until one day it finally rains.  The endpapers in this book, showing a bird's eye view of opened, patterned umbrellas are especially lovely.  I'm eager to check out other books by this author.

With its beautiful, full-page, close-up illustrations of African animals who foretell the rain's arrival through each of their senses, varied (but mostly large) text size in a block-print font, and simple but lyrical prose, Manya Stojic's Rain is, like her subsequent work Snow, perfect for younger readers. 

What are your favorite books about rain or raingear?


  1. Have you seen CHALK, another wordless book? Rain literally saves the day.

  2. @Beth, Yes, we've taken Chalk out from the library and loved it!

  3. And they look so cute walking down the street with their umbrellas!

  4. I just popped over to say thanks for that terrific link about the two Holocaust/Cat books. I thought I had left a comment on this umbrella book post earlier, but I bet I closed the window before putting in the word verification.

    I had said that I should check out these books because my 2 year old is really, really into umbrellas right now.

  5. If you are into collecting umbrellas you might like to read Ella's Umbrellas by Jennifer Lloyd and The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Yim Bridges is a beautiful story. I wrote about them at

  6. @Kinderbooks: Thanks! We had previously taken The Umbrella Queen out of the library but it was a while ago and I'd forgotten about it. I will definitely check out Ella's Umbrellas - thanks for the recommendation.

  7. Thanks for the book ideas! You're right about kids being enamored with umbrellas. My girls are for sure.
    I love your blog, by the way. (I also left a comment on your "Of Dora and Dead Squirrels" post.)

  8. I was about to say g'day to a fellow Aussie, but luckily read your About Me first. So I'll say g'day to a fellow picture book lover instead! I love the look of the art in Il Sung Na's book and will definitely look out for it.