Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff
Rec Ages 8-13
When Jared Richards died of an undiagnosed heart condition it shattered his younger sister Annie’s world. She lives in a state of constant worry and anxiety where a mosquito bite or an upset stomach signals horrendous and fatal medical conditions. She wears a bike helmet when riding in the car and ace bandages on her ankles to avoid sprains and everyone around her gives her the “dead brother” look when they try to explain that she really is safe. She doesn’t know what safe is anymore and she is pretty certain that no one else does either.
This summer with her brother’s birthday looming and her anxiety overshadowing her life, she and her parents must find a way to move forward. With the help of a new neighbor, she may just be able to find a way back to the living.
This book is heartbreaking in so many ways. Annie is desperate to find some control over her world and her friends and family want to help even their own worlds are spiraling out control. I loved the connection between Mrs. Finch and Annie, a bond that could offer healing to both of them. I loved how Annie’s friends never gave up on her despite all that had been going on. All the characters in this story were refreshingly authentic. When dealing with a subject such as this, it is always too easy to fall into archetypes and caricatures. I especially loved the use of Charlotte’s Web to make the point of an ever-changing world where life goes on after death.
This book may be a lot to handle for a child who has lost a family member, but it would make for a great discussion tool for most kids ages 5-13. It is a wonderful story.
Lisa Graff’s latest book ‘Far Away’ was released in March of this year.