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Umbrella Summer

Review

Umbrella Summer

Ten-year-old Annie Richards used to have great fun with her friends racing bicycles and creating obstacle courses. She used to have a happy family who looked forward to birthday parties and Fourth of July fireworks. She also used to have an older brother named Jared, whom she adored. But then Jared died suddenly with a rare heart problem, and everything changed.

This whole ordeal just proved to Annie that life is so very dangerous, and a person should take every precaution one can just to stay safe. She decides she shouldn’t race on bicycles anymore; in fact, she and her friend, Rebecca, now hold contests to see who can go the slowest on her bike. And obstacle courses are far too hazardous to even attempt. Annie keeps a good supply of bandages to protect against harm, and to cover up bug bites, potential poison oak and anything that could be the very dangerous chicken pox. When she finds a big, thick book on preventing sickness, Annie finally feels she has a tool to help keep ahead of the dangers lurking in the world. But it doesn’t stop her from worrying. She even starts wearing her bike helmet for walking and riding in the car.

Then a new neighbor moves in across the street. Mrs. Finch doesn’t seem too special at first, and even her house doesn’t appear to be haunted, like Annie and Rebecca had hoped. But she does have time to spend with Annie, and she’s a good listener. As they become friends, they discover that they have something in common, a shared grief that unites them. It’s Mrs. Finch who gently shows Annie that by worrying so much, she may be missing out on all the good things in life. And it’s Annie who challenges Mrs. Finch to finally open the big moving box labeled “Fragile.” Together, they begin to find the sunshine and the laughter in life again.

Lisa Graff, the author of this wonderful, heartwarming book, tackles the sensitive issues of death and grief with honesty and cleverness, connecting to the readers with a natural instinct and enthusiasm. She uses humor, a bit of mystery and a vivid imagination to keep the pages turning, and her characters are colorful and distinct, especially Annie, whose intelligence, deeply felt emotions and troubled spirit dive right into the reader’s heart. Keep an eye on Graff; she has a real gift for the kind of storytelling that will bond readers to a lifetime of reading.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on March 29, 2011

Umbrella Summer
by Lisa Graff

  • Publication Date: March 29, 2011
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0061431893
  • ISBN-13: 9780061431890