Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Publisher Review: Umbrella Summer

by Lisa Graff

Annie is, to put it mildly, a worrier. She has good reason, she thinks, because you just never know. They didn't know anything was wrong with her brother Jared until he died, and he was only 11. Sure, these things might be rare, but clearly they happen, and she is determined to live firmly on the safe side, even reading up on new dangers to look out for.

Annie doesn't really realize that she is reacting, but she does know she hates the worried, pitying looks she gets from everyone, and and she knows her parents are acting strangely, her dad mostly disconnected, and her mother cleaning and refusing to talk about Jared.

It's not until her friend's hamster dies and she simply cannot be there for her and attend the rodent's funeral that things start to become both better and worse. For one thing, her friend Rebeccas is so hurt at her lack of support that she won't talk to Annie, who is miserable and blows up at a public event. On the other hand, she becomes friendly with the new neighbour, an older woman who has her own loss to face and who makes a part of that journey with Annie.

In the end, the new neighbour not only helps heal the rift between Annie and Rebecca, but points out to Annie that her healing is stalled, using the comparison that gives the book its title: Annie has been walking around with her "umbrella" open to prevent herself from getting wet, but in protecting herself, she is keeping herself from enjoying the sun. It's time, she says, to start closing the umbrella and find out about the other things around her. It's a message that Annie not only takes to heart for herself, but shares with Jared's best friend and brings home to her parents, leading her to help them with their own healing, too.

This is a book about death and coping with grief that somehow manages not to be teribly sad, though it makes you feel bad for Annie. Mostly, it rings true, and introduces a young girl wrestling with something huge and winning, through her own spirit and the help of a wise friend. Beautifully written, with heart and humour as well as empathy, it's not only a wonderful read, but could be a great choice for someone who knows this struggle more intimately.

If you'd like to read a little for yourself to get a feel for this book and character, check out an excerpt, here.

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