The bighearted Yellow Umbrella discovers unexpected poignancy at a depth deeper than that of most children’s books.

THE YELLOW UMBRELLA

A CITY FABLE

Author and artist Dunn turns an everyday object—a yellow umbrella—into a touching tale about the joy of giving selflessly and how small acts of compassion can transcend cultural boundaries.

Illustrated with charming simplicity, this unusual “city fable” begins with Dunn’s early memories of the real people who inspired his flowering curiosity. One of them was Lina, a little girl who wrote stories and treasured beautiful things and, as the fable begins, is the first owner of the Yellow Umbrella. He—the Yellow Umbrella—had “forgotten the rain because he had been asleep so long,” until one day he expands “into a great, flower-like circle” to protect Lina with his outstretched “arms.” Curious about the world and his purpose in it, the Yellow Umbrella talks with other worldly umbrellas stored in the hall in a Chinese Vase, who “dreams all day of the past, when she lived far away in a big house hung with silks.” After the wise Hall Mirror accurately predicts that a journey of discovery awaits the Yellow Umbrella, he’s then lost on a bus and found by Mr. Klein, a lonely watchmaker. One rainy day in the park, Mr. Klein kindly gives the umbrella to “the Lady with the Rose Hat.” And the Yellow Umbrella’s adventures continue: “a Lady from Persia" adopts the umbrella; then he finds his way to a sick young boy, who reads and sleeps under the Yellow Umbrella’s comforting canopy. The frail boy dreams that the umbrella shaded him “as he rode on his golden elephant like a Boy-King from long ago.” Throughout this gentle fairy tale, the author gives young readers a compassionate glimpse into each of the lives touched by the humble yellow traveler. When a gust of wind carries the Yellow Umbrella up into the starry night sky, he sees the city for its vastness—but also for the men, women and children whose lives he helped make better. Among the shooting stars shines the Yellow Umbrella’s remarkably rare message—aspire to kindness in the service of others.

The bighearted Yellow Umbrella discovers unexpected poignancy at a depth deeper than that of most children’s books.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-615-29540-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Mushroom Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2012

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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