Book Review || Umbrella Summer

Author: Lisa Graff

Meet Annie Richards. She’s just a regular girl… although she’s much, much more cautious than other kids. Everyone tells her not to worry so much, that she is fine— but that’s what they told Jared, her brother, and Jared died. 😥 Annie has become obsessed with being safe: she wears a bike helmet during car rides, covers her mosquito bites with Band-Aids (wondering if they might be chicken pox), and steals a medical dictionary so she can study every possible disease (and self-diagnose herself to avoid the same fate as Jared, who died of something so incredibly rare that even the doctors didn’t discover it until he after died). Annie is still fun— just the careful type of fun. When Annie’s best friend Rebecca’s hamster dies, Rebecca is distraught, but Annie is numb. Annie runs away, not being able to face another death, another funeral, and Rebecca is hurt and angry. So Annie turns to the new neighbour, Mrs. Finch, who is good-humoured, patient, and wise. And little does Annie know that Mrs. Finch is grieving too. Through weeding Mrs. Finch’s garden, playing cards, and drinking tea over a good conversation, the two bond. Not only does Mrs. Finch bring Annie and Rebecca back together, she and Annie close their “umbrellas” of grief (which block out not only the “rain” of life, but also the “sunshine”) and teach others, including Annie’s parents, to do so as well.

This is a radiant, beautiful book. It’s a heartwarming story of one girl’s grief, and what I liked about that was the fact Annie didn’t act the way you would think after someone would after their brother had died. Her way of coping with that immense amount of grief is to push it away by putting all her focus on ways to keep herself safe, so much that there’s no time left to think about Jared. And that’s the part that really makes your heart ache for her. Her friend Rebecca, though a nice girl, has a hard time understanding Annie until her own hamster dies, and her parents are too caught up in their own sadness to realize that Annie needs to learn to step out into the sunshine again. Mrs. Finch is the ultimate wise, elderly woman who’s been through everything and is happy to share ways to help others. I really enjoyed the symbolic reference of the umbrella, because I think that all of us, at some points of our lives, like Annie, get too caught up in this protection to realize we no longer need to use those “umbrellas” to block out our problems, and this book gives us that touching concept to us as a lesson from Mrs. Finch. This is a sincere, memorable story perfect for bringing sunshine into everyone’s hearts.

-Yasimone

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