Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 2, 2009)
Book summary: Annie Richards knows there are a million things to look out for—bicycle accidents, food poisoning, chicken pox, smallpox, typhoid fever, runaway zoo animals, and poison oak. That's why being careful is so important, even if it does mean giving up some of her favorite things, like bike races with her best friend, Rebecca, and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. Everyone keeps telling Annie not to worry so much, that she's just fine. But they thought her brother, Jared, was just fine too, and Jared died.
It takes a new neighbor, who looks as plain as a box of toothpicks but has some surprising secrets of her own, to make Annie realize that her plans for being careful aren't working out as well as she had hoped. And with a lot of help from those around her—and a book about a pig, too—Annie just may find a way to close her umbrella of sadness and step back into the sunshine.
My review: Ever since Annie Richards' brother Jared died suddenly, she's been overly cautious. That means no more obstacle courses with friends, or bike rides down Maple Hill. Everyone misses Jared a lot, especially with his birthday coming up soon, and Annie realizes that she has to do something for everyone to remember him by. With the help of an ordinary old lady--who had a few secrets of her own--and the people around her, she helps everyone realize its time to enjoy life again. . . .
I liked the role Mrs.Flinch, Annie's new neighbor, played in the story. At first, I thought her character wouldn't have much to do with the story--after all, Annie and Rebecca were wanted to see if Mrs.Flinch's house was haunted. But then when Annie falls off her bike and is hurt, Mrs.Flinch comes to the rescue and that's pretty much where there friendship began. I liked how Mrs. Flinch was quiet and nice, but had a sense of humor and was a good character. I also liked Annie, and how in the end she was strong and closed her "umbrella".
I thought a great touch was using a metaphor for Annie's cautiousness and calling it her umbrella. It was really cute. I really had no dislikes about this book, it was short and sweet, I couldn't believe I finished it so quickly! In the end I really think both the reader and Annie learned that life's for living and you can't change some things, but you can embrace them, and live with them. This is one of those books I'm probably going to remember for awhile, and in the end I felt like there was a lot to think about.
Umbrella Summer is a cute, yet absorbing and funny quick read.
Excerpt: (From page 235)
"Maybe it only took one person to open an umbrella and stick it up in the air to block out the rain, but it took a whole lot of people to close it. And even though I was pretty sure I still had a few more inches to go, I knew that once my umbrella was all the way closed, I was going to keep it that way for a long time.
Because as it turned out, I sure did like the sunshine."
Rating: ++++ 1/2
Book source: Purchased at a Scholastic Book Fair at my school last spring.