In this season of April showers, a book about umbrellas is welcome relief and good company indoors.
Ella’s Umbrellas, by Blain-ville author Jennifer Lloyd, starts out with a little girl whose collection of brollies is threatening to take over the house. Her mother, normally a mild-mannered person, flips out when she sees umbrellas everywhere. She insists that Ella diminish the supply. Find people who need one, she tells her daughter, and give the umbrellas away.
But as anyone with a collection can attest, dispersing it is easier said than done. After a couple of false starts, Ella gets on with it. A torrential downpour helps. People getting drenched are happy to make use of the umbrellas Ella has piled into her wagon, and before long, she is left with just one: her favourite, robin’s-egg blue. “It came from someone special: kind Aunt Stella from far-off Kathmandu.”
But when Ella spots the mailman plodding through the rain, she gives him her blue brolly – a sacrifice that is rewarded when she gets home and finds Aunt Stella has come for a visit, bearing a new umbrella: “in bright emerald green … the most precious umbrella Ella had ever seen!”
Colourful illustrations by Ashley Spires add considerable appeal, and the embossed raindrops on the cover (visible only when light hits them, although they can be discerned by touch) will delight observant youngsters. For ages 4 to 8.
Quill & Quire
Ella has an enviable collection of umbrellas. They are colourful and speckled, sparkly and spotty, and she treasures every one. Her favourite, however, is the one that is “robin’s egg blue,” a gift from “kind Aunt Stella from far-off Kathmandu.” She is understandably excited about Aunt Stella’s imminent arrival. There’s just one problem: Ella’s umbrellas are everywhere! Much to Ella’s chagrin, her mother insists she get
rid of them.
Ella’s first attempts at clearing out her collection are comically feeble. After all, it’s not easy giving away your favourite things, so why try too hard? Then the rain begins to fall, and Ella finds a way to provide shelter for a drenched passerby. This happens a few more times until, slowly, Ella recognizes that her resentment and regret have given way to a strangely good feeling deep inside. Can it be that giving away her umbrellas feels better than keeping them to herself?
Ella’s Umbrellas is an enchanting combination of Jennifer Lloyd’s playful, alliterative text and Ashley Spires’ quirky watercolours. Both provide knowing, gentle humour and contribute to the story’s sweet conclusion.
A kindergarten teacher by day in Blainville, Quebec, Lloyd understands the way in which children cling to their possessions and find it difficult to share. Her text is light and rhythmic, setting just the right tone for reading aloud.
Meanwhile, Spires, the B.C.-based author and illustrator of Binky the Space Cat and Penguin and the Cupcake, brings her characteristic wit to Ella’s story. Her illustrations breathe life and energy into every scene. Little details add interest: Ella’s cat pops up in several scenes, while the ubiquitous umbrellas provide numerous opportunities for younger readers to count aloud.