Illustrator Bates applies her signature watercolor, gouache, and pencil style to a quiet story about a smiling umbrella, a tale sparked by a conversation with her seventh-grade daughter, co-author Juniper Bates.
The eponymous rain protection is a big, red, friendly, helpful umbrella that sits near the front door and “likes to spread its arms wide” when it rains. As the pages turn, the umbrella grows in size, its smile ever widening, “to give shelter.” It gathers all in—tall, hairy, plaid. “It doesn’t matter how many legs you have,” the omniscient narrator assures, as a basset hound droops forlornly outside its shelter before being welcomed in. While the book does not bill itself as political, it is hard to read it without thinking of current events—and of the umbrella as a metaphor for the United States. “Some people worry that there won’t be enough room under the big umbrella,” the narrator warns. “But the amazing thing is…there is.” The final spread of this gentle picture book is an illustration of diverse people in a park: a black jogger; a white man in a wheelchair with a small dog on a leash; a brown woman wearing a hijab with a butterfly in her palms; two men and three children (in child seats), all of different skin colors, riding a tandem bike.
A subtle, deceptively simple book about inclusion, hospitality, and welcoming the “other.” (Picture book. 3-6)