Wednesday 25 February 2015

The Umbrella

The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert (Book Island)
HB RRP NZ$26.99
ISBN 9780994109859
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Book Island which published this wordless picture book is a New Zealand-based publishing house with a bold dream of enriching children's and adults' lives in the English- and Dutch-language market. It does this by bringing unique stories from Europe to New Zealand, and then designs (and sometimes translates) and prints beautiful high-quality books.  Buzz Words has previously reviewed three books from Book Island and found all of these books to be of a high standard.
The front fly pages shows a small black dog watched by a cat as it discovers a red umbrella on a windy, autumn day. When the dog opens up the umbrella on the title page, he is pulled along and then (turning the page) he is whirled up into the leaf-filled air, a farm house (and the cat) far below. 

The rest of the story shows the dog high above clouds, flying above the savannah (and watched by African animals), into a desert, across a turbulent sea (the umbrella  as his boat) and into a jungle. Along the way he encounters danger – a half-circle of alligators, sea creatures (including a mammoth whale) and a village of natives who hurl spears at him. Luckily, the dog is rescued by a pelican which deposits him in a polar region. The journey continues as the dog passes seals, polar bears and a sky full of bats.

Eventually the dog and his umbrella are returned to whence they came. There the cat is still waiting; in the final fly page the dog is shuffling off, leaving the umbrella for the cat to find (and perhaps to have its own adventure).

As with all good picture books for young ‘readers’, there is plenty to see and talk about in this book, especially if a parent or other carer is sharing the book. At the end, the question might be ‘where will the cat and umbrella go next?’ The illustrations are colourful and accomplished with lots of energy and details for poring over. Many of the views are taken from above the land, looking down at the landscape (rivers, jungle, ocean and so forth). A wordless book like this allows much scope for a child to invent story and to use his imagination to extend the visual text. This book would likely appeal to children aged one to three years of age.

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