________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 3 . . . . October 2, 1998

cover The Umbrella Party.

Janet Lunn. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books, 1998.
32 pp., cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 0-88899-298-X.

Subject Headings:
Umbrellas and parasols-Juvenile fiction.
Birthdays-Juvenile fiction.
Beaches-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten - grade 1 / Ages 3 - 6.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.

**** /4

image Is there anything that a five year-old likes better than a party? Today's parents are becoming ever more creative when it comes to birthday parties. Theme parties involving popular characters such as pirates, clowns, medieval princesses and Winnie-the-Po oh are greatly favoured by the four to eight year old set. Just how much input the child has into the planning and execution of these thematic celebrations is not clear. However, in Janet Lunn's new book for the pre-schooler, The Umbrella Party, there is no doubt about who is responsible for this amazing and unique birthday party. It is Christie, who loves umbrellas "...more than anything in the world." Naturally she asks everyone who is invited to her six-year old birthday party to bring her an umbrella, and sure enough, each one of her nine friends brings her an umbrella. Umbrellas of all colours, shapes and sizes soon cram the living room. Christie is delighted, though her friends are secretly bored and wish for their skateboards and trampolines. When Grandfather arrives with a huge beach umbrella, the party takes an exciting turn, and the children head for the beach with all Christie's new umbrellas piled in the car. An unexpected t urn of the weather provides the children with the opportunity for an exciting umbrella rescue. Afterwards, Christie sets up her umbrellas "... like a bright flowered tent" to shelter the children from the rain as they eat their birthday cake and sing "Happy Birthday."

      Author Janet Lunn, recently named a Member of the Order of Canada, is well-known for her historical novels for young adults. Like her award-winning first picture book, Amos' Sweater, The Umbrella Party is written with gentle humour in langua ge which is wonderfully appropriate for young children. Kady MacDonald Denton's mischievous depictions of a group of five-year-olds - how does she manage to get their expressions so exactly right using so few lines? - and her bright, bouncy water-colours , evoke the mood and setting of the story perfectly.

      The book is an excellent read-aloud for the pre-school and kindergarten crowd. Lunn's text is disarmingly simple, plentifully laced with the sort of dialogue overheard in kindergarten classrooms. Complemented by Kady MacDonald Denton's clever illustratio ns, (observant fives will notice with glee that Christie's bathing suit and shirt both have umbrellas on them!), the story gives us a quiet little lesson on the power of knowing one's own mind.

      The Umbrella Party is a must-have for the picture book collections of early childhood education facilities, elementary schools and public libraries.

Highly recommended.

Valerie Nielsen is teacher-librarian at Bairdmore Elementary School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364