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The Umbrella

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The Umbrella [Hardcover]

Jan Brett
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

Jan Brett, well-loved for her ornate, Scandinavian-themed picture books takes her talents deep into the Monteverde Cloud Forest of Costa Rica. A tropical twist on The Mitten, this story chronicles the antics of myriad animals that make themselves right at home in the handcrafted leaf umbrella that Carlos has left at the foot of a giant fig tree. As the tree frog, toucan, kinkajou, tapir, quetzal, monkey, and more pile into the umbrella, Carlos, who is visiting the cloud forest expressly to see these animals, doesn't see a single one. Things heat up when the impulsive monkey hurls the umbrella into the river: "'¿Qué pasa? What is happening?' Froggy asks as water starts to pour into the umbrella." Jaguar jumps in, adding to the confusion, but it's the addition of the tiniest of hummingbirds that causes the big "KER-SPLASH!" Brett's gorgeous, detailed watercolor and gouache illustrations steal the show here, from the exquisite endpapers to the vine-encased leafy side panels that reveal the tree-climbing boy on the left side and a sneak preview of the next umbrella-dwelling animal on the right side. Not Brett's best-crafted story, but her fans will want this lush offering anyway. (Ages 5 to 8) --Karin Snelson

Did You Know?
Fun Facts about Jan Brett
  • Each book begins with the art first.
  • Jan likes to listen to audiobooks while drawing--usually thrillers!
  • Each book takes about a year to complete.
  • The pages of each book are not created in sequence (she saves the front materials and endpapers for last).
  • Each book is carefully researched--she created The Umbrella after a trip with her husband to Costa Rica.
  • Jan prefers to use her memories of a place to create her art, rather than relying on pictures.

For Young Writers and Artists
Tips from Jan Brett
  • Want a reality check on your artwork? View your work in a mirror.
  • Be honest with yourself, and get comfortable with personal and private writing. Write in a notebook that no one sees but you.
  • Remember the things that happen to you now. It's okay to feel things strongly as a kid. You can use your emotions as part of the recipe for something later.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 4–Young Carlos hopes to spot certain animals in the nearby rain forest but is disappointed when no living things appear. Dropping his umbrella made from leaves, he climbs a tree for a better view. Meanwhile, one by one all of the creatures the boy hoped to see settle into his umbrella, arguing over available space until the weight of a hummingbird tips the whole thing over. The story line, which mimics Brett's The Mitten (1989) and Pamela Allen's amusing Who Sank the Boat? (1983, both Putnam), is a trifle overambitious and seems to sink, like the umbrella, under the weight of its components. The animals lapse into Spanish often enough to perplex readers, since the words and phrases aren't always clearly translated. The text fails to improve on earlier versions of this tale. However, the watercolor-and-gouache illustrations are stunning. Lush vine-framed paintings show a leafy world where countless shades of green are illuminated by tropical flowers and exotic animals. Each spread provides an enticing glimpse of the creature that will appear next and thus an entertaining visual puzzle for children. Despite the narrative's weaknesses, this book can be used as an introduction to the rain forest, and the illustrations alone make it worth owning.–Susan Weitz, Spencer-Van Etten Schools, Spencer, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

PreS-Gr. 2. In Brett's newest picture book, inspired by a recent trip to the Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica, young Carlos sets out in search of exotic animals that live among the thick vines and tropical foliage. He takes along a green umbrella, which he sets down at the base of a tree before climbing up for a better view. While Carlos scans the "sea of green," hoping to spot a few cloud-forest friends, a menagerie gathers inside his umbrella, right under his nose--a humorous reversal of the adage about not seeing the forest for the trees. Brett's characteristically lush paintings portray all the misty, mystical details of a rare tropical habitat and its unfamiliar critters, including a bawling baby tapir, a sleepy kinkajou, a hungry toucan, and a brilliantly plumaged quetzal. The basic Spanish phrases punctuating the dialogue, such as "Vete!" (go away) and "Buena suerte" (good luck), are easily understood through context, and lend authenticity to a story with a deeply rooted sense of place. Terry Glover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Carlos makes an umbrella from shiny, green fronds to go into the cloud forest, hoping to see many animals. When the only sounds he hears are the drips from the tall trees, he climbs up a giant fig tree to see better, dropping his umbrella upside down on the ground. As the drips collect inside it, a series of animals tumbles in: Froggy, Toucan, Kinkajou, Baby Tapir, Quetzal, and-finally-Monkey, who tosses the umbrella into the river, where it starts to sink….Indeed, Brett surpasses herself in this handsomely designed and beautifully executed appreciation of so different a setting.”—Kirkus Reviews
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