Umbrella Summer


10-year-old Annie is worried about anything that could cause her harm. She has been this way since her 11-year-old brother Jared died from a rare disease a few months earlier. Everything has changed. Her parents act different, people give her weird looks, and she cannot bring herself to have any fun. She wears full bike gear while walking her bike, she is concerned about how food is prepared, and she wears band-aids when she has no scrape or cut. Annie's friends want her to join in fun activities, but she refuses because they could be dangerous. Her new (and only) interest is reading a book about preventing illnesses. Everyone tells Annie she should not worry so much but it does not help.

When Mrs. Finch moves into the house across the street, she invites Annie over for tea and playing cards. The two become friends, and the more they talk they begin to understand each other's grief. Annie learns that Mrs. Finch lost her husband recently and is having trouble unpacking some of his things. Mrs. Finch learns that Annie is so worried about death that she is missing out on being a kid. Mrs. Finch tells Annie she will miss the sun if she keeps living under an umbrella. Will Annie be able to close her umbrella so she can enjoy being a kid again?

BTSYA / Teen Reader:
Umbrella Summer is a heartwarming story that takes its readers on a journey through a healing process. The generally upbeat tone and relaxed pace contribute to the book being both uplifting and enjoyable to read. Instead of being heart-stopping and intensely suspenseful, the story flows through a sequence of events recounted in a way that eliminates the need for plot twists and action-filled scenes.

Although the intended audience is most likely the upper elementary and middle school age range, it is a short novel that should appeal to all age groups. The gentle humor, bold characters, and touching story are more than enough to shine through and bring some sunlight into anyone’s heart.

BTYSA / Adult Volunteer Reviewer (42):
Umbrella Summer is an emotional story about losing a loved one. Grief affects everyone differently and the author did a terrific job portraying that. Although this is a sad story, it is light, fun, upbeat, and moves at a fast pace. The characters are realistic with unique personalities. I enjoyed reading about Annie's growth throughout the story. I loved the sense of community and how the neighbors seemed to genuinely care for one another. The friendships between young and old are a nice touch.

I did not like the disconnect on the part of Annie's parents, but that changed in the end. Overall, this is a fantastic story with a beautiful ending. Conversations about death, grief, and forgiveness could arise. I would recommend it to readers age 10 and older. If you see it at the library pick it up.

Parent Perspective:
Wow! This was such a beautiful, engaging read. I wasn't expecting this. These are great characters who are individuals, not stereotypes. I also loved how we can walk in Annie's shoes and see things that she doesn't (yet) see herself as the story moves forward. Weaving Charlotte's Web into the plot is poignant beyond words.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Beautiful writing, humor, and *real* characters come together in a story that you won't want to put down.

Content Awareness Factors:


Type of Book:
This is a coming-of-age story for three friends as they enjoy the summer coming into their eighth grade year.
Educational Themes:

There are lots of threads that can be explored in this story. In following Annie's parents and friends (particularly Tommy), there are openings to talk about grief and how people deal with loss. Several scenes lend themselves to sharing ideas or suggestions on how to handle (or better handle) a situation - the car wash and death of Rebecca's guinea pig come to mind. For older readers, it could be interesting to compare this story with Charlotte's Web (which is referenced in the book).

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
11 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
10 to 13
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ " Reviewer ages: 16, 42
Purchase Recommendation:
Borrow, at least. We bet you'll want to buy a copy for yourself or a friend. Don't mistake this for a girl book ... boys will enjoy the humor and totally relate to Doug Zimmerman.

Title Umbrella Summer
Author Lisa Graff
Publisher Laura Geringer Books, HarperCollins Publishers Imprint © 2011
ISBN 9780061431890
Material Hard Cover
Cost $15.99
Genres Family, Humor, Death and Loss, Growing Up
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