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The Umbrella Hardcover – September 9, 2004
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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
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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
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making it harder for a young child to hold.