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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: You can never be too careful. Annie Richards (10) learned that the hard way when her brother died of a rare medical condition. In the year since Jared's death, Annie has been doing everything she can to keep herself safe, healthy, and out of reach of the "dead-brother look." Jared's birthday is just around the corner, and she can feel the sadness taking over everyone - Jared's best friend Tommy, and her parents. When she befriends Mrs. Finch, who just moved into the neighborhood, Annie discovers that there is sunshine after the rain. This is a coming-of-age story for three friends as they enjoy the summer coming into their eighth grade year.
Type of Reading: independent reading, reluctant reader, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 10 to 13; read yourself: 11 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Umbrella Summer is a heart-warming and takes its readers on a journey through a healing process. The generally upbeat tone and relaxed pace contribute to the book being both uplifting and enjoyable to read. Instead of being heart-stopping and intensely suspenseful, the story flows through a sequence of events recounted in a way that eliminates the need for plot twists and action-filled scenes.
Although the intended audience is most likely the upper elementary and middle school age range, it is a short novel that should appeal to all age groups. The gentle humor, bold characters, and touching story are more than enough to shine through and bring some sunlight into anyone’s heart.
Adult Reader Reaction: Wow! This was such a beautiful, engaging read. These are great characters who are individuals, not stereotypes. I also loved how we can walk in Annie's shoes and see things that she doesn't (yet) see herself as the story moves forward. Weaving Charlotte's Web into the plot is poignant beyond words.
Pros: Beautiful writing, humor, and *real* characters come together in a story that you won't want to put down.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. We bet you'll want to buy a copy for yourself or a friend. Don't mistake this for a girl book ... boys will enjoy the humor and totally relate to Doug Zimmerman.
If You Liked This Book, Try: Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban; Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher; Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata; and Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hanse SALLY'S BONESSALTWATER TAFFYTHE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE
Educational Themes: There are lots of threads that can be explored in this story. In following Annie's parents and friends (particularly Tommy), there are openings to talk about grief and how people deal with loss. Several scenes lend themselves to sharing ideas or suggestions on how to handle (or better handle) a situation - the car wash and death of Rebecca's guinea pig come to mind. For older readers, it could be interesting to compare this story with Charlotte's Web (which is referenced in the book).
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - family, humor, growing up, death and loss
Date(s) Reviewed: July 2014, November 2014
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at BarnesAndNoble.com and amazon.com.