Friday, July 11, 2014

Umbrella Summer

Yesterday was like Christmas in July for this librarian! A fellow soccer mom and Pearl Creek parent had weeded her family bookshelves, and offered me first pickings for the library. Got a bunch of Jake Drake books I didn't have, some Magic Treehouse, and more of the Rainbow Magic fairy books. I honestly can't stand those fairy books, but the little girls love them, and whatever gets them to read is fine with me. Later I can turn them on to some finer books! The biggest find, though, was three hardback Mouse Guard books in excellent condition. I have multiple copies of them in the library, but they are in terrible shape. Thank you so much, Jill!

Today's review is of "Umbrella Summer," by Lisa Graaf. Upon re-reading my old reviews on Goodreads, I have discovered that I frequently use the word "sweet" to describe books. I really need to expand my vocabulary, because it was once again the first word I thought of when I began writing this review. I'm going to use it just one more time, and then I promise I'll find some better descriptors.

"Umbrella Summer" is a sweet little book about the grief process, as seen through the eyes of ten year old Annie Richards. Annie distracts herself from the grief of losing her brother by focusing on preventing accidents and illness. It has developed into an obsession for her; she even steals a medical book from a neighbor so that she can pore over every possible symptom. She reasons that Jared had been healthy, and had still died in a freak accident, so she must be extremely cautious. She won't participate in any activity that might put her at the slightest risk, and her friends start to think she isn't much fun anymore. Meanwhile her Dad is forgetting things constantly, and her Mom locks the door to Jared's room, refusing to think about him or talk about him.

When a traumatized Annie runs away from the funeral of her best friend's hamster, it sets off a series of events that will, in the long run, be to her benefit. Her friend, Rebecca, is angry about her behavior and ditches her for a time. This prompts Annie to behave so badly at a car wash that people finally realize she needs a little help. While she and Rebecca aren't speaking to each other, she befriends an elderly neighbor who is grieving the loss of her husband. This kind woman finds a way to help Annie and Rebecca patch things up, while showing Annie that she has the power to close her "umbrella of sadness," and enjoy life again. Annie in turn challenges her to move forward as well. As Jared's birthday approaches, Annie wants to think of some way to commemorate the day. She and Jared's best friend devise a way to remember him that provides comfort to everyone, and Annie and her parents finally begin to heal together.

Although this book portrays a rather extreme reaction to grief, it feels very real. The characters are well drawn, and imperfect enough to be believable. This would be a wonderful book for kids who have suffered any kind of a loss. Grief can manifest itself in many different ways, and this book could help show kids that almost any reaction to grief is natural and normal, but that help is available if it becomes too difficult.

Well, it's raining again here in River City, so I'm hoping to finally get my room cleaned. It's so involved; our bedroom becomes the depository for anything in the house that doesn't seem to have a home. Does anyone else experience this? Wish me luck!

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