Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates

by Amy June Bates
Cowritten by Juniper Bates
Simon & Schuster 
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 and up

In the tradition of Alison McGhee’s Someday, beloved illustrator Amy June Bates makes her authorial debut alongside her eleven-year-old daughter with this timely and timeless picture book about acceptance.

By the door there is an umbrella. It is big. It is so big that when it starts to rain there is room for everyone underneath. It doesn’t matter if you are tall. Or plaid. Or hairy. It doesn’t matter how many legs you have.

Don’t worry that there won’t be enough room under the umbrella. Because there will always be room.

Lush illustrations and simple, lyrical text subtly address themes of inclusion and tolerance in this sweet story that accomplished illustrator Amy June Bates cowrote with her daughter, Juniper, while walking to school together in the rain.


Inclusion and tolerance ring loud and clear in this beautiful, touching book.

The red umbrella is a big, friendly umbrella and carries this attitude through rain and storm out into the world. While starting out simple and indoors, the umbrella is taken outside where it quickly gains more and more people to shelter from the ever dripping rain. And the umbrella is never too small. Never.

This is a book of little but powerful words. While keeping the text to a minimum, just enough comes through to build the right atmosphere and understanding. The illustrations do the rest. The mixture is sweet, encouraging, humorous at times and holds a huge message without ever becoming preachy. This is one amazing umbrella, and simply by doing its job, it spreads a warm feeling of tolerance and belonging.

Young listeners will easily fall into the pages as the umbrella is taken out into the city. It's bright color and bold, never faltering smile make it an umbrella to love. The illustrations not only do a wonderful job depicting different types of people and show how the umbrella grows and grows without any words, but little sparks of humor sprinkle in to keep the entire thing light and friendly. The growing details invite readers to flip through the pages and see what they can discover. 

This is a lovely book with a wonderful message. It makes a great read-aloud, opens to discussions and isn't easily forgotten after it is laid down.

And here they are. . .

Amy June Bates has illustrated many picture books, including, Sweet Dreams and That's What I'd Do, both by singer-songwriter Jewel; Hillary Rodham Clinton by Kathleen Krull; and The Brothers Kennedy, also by Kathleen Krull. She lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children.

Juniper Bates was in sixth grade when she and her mom, Amy June Bates, came up with the idea for The Big Umbrella while sharing an umbrella in a rainstorm. Juniper loves music, skiing, books and puddles she can jump in. Juniper lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with their family and dog, Rosebud.

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