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'The Umbrella'     Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 10, 2004]  "The Umbrella," by Jan Brett, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2004, 30 pages, ages 4-8 years

54217447Review by
Louella Moreland

As a librarian and teacher, I always look forward to a new Jan Brett release. In her newest book, she again delights the senses with a trip to a tropical rain forest. "The Umbrella" contains all the Brett components we have come to love and expect.

Large central panels tell the story of a young boy, Carlos, on a typical day of adventure and exploration. Set in a lush tropical rain forest patterned after the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica where Brett once visited, she has woven a story about a boy in search of birds and animals that seem to appear and disappear in the mists.

Leaving his large umbrella made from the leaves abundantly found in that habitat, Carlos begins to climb a giant fig tree. A tiny green tree frog with popping red-orange eyes is the first to find the puddle inside the umbrella, made by the drip, drip, drip falling from the trees. He is our commentator for the rest of the story, introducing each new visitor with a Spanish exclamation (and English translation) that expresses his displeasure with sharing his new home.

Although Carlos does not see any animals and birds on this day, unknown to him, many of the forest animals and birds discover his umbrella at the base of the tree. They, of course, think it is a wonderful place in which to rest or hide -- until one too many visitors sends the umbrella toppling into the river with a splash. They then scramble to the bank, a little wet and grumpy, while Carlos climbs down the tree, a bit disappointed in his quest. He returns home with the umbrella, wondering where all the birds and animals were that day. Only the small tree frog accompanies Carlos home, settling inside the leaf umbrella, where he is happy to finally have the puddle all to himself.

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The smaller left- and right-hand side panels record the climb that Carlos makes from the forest's floor to the canopy of the "cloud forest," as well as the animal or bird that is next to enter the story. This is a signature Brett design that adults and children alike have come to admire. Miniature stories within the story, these panels help children review and predict elements that build valuable comprehension skills and build excitement as the story develops. In "The Umbrella," Brett uses the shape of the giant fig leaf as the border of her artwork.

Vibrant colors and lush details abound. Each animal's face reflects emotions from disgust, to fear, to "Oh, boy, here we go now!" The two-page spread of the umbrella landing in the river with all the animals aboard will surely lend many minutes of delight to anyone of any age reading this story.

So stop by the library or call us at 732-5732 to see this newest Jan Brett masterpiece. Of course, if it is already checked out, take home another of your favorite Brett books or a new author instead!

[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian, Lincoln Public Library District]

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