Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff

What a great middle grade novel!  Lisa Graff really “gets” middle graders and I can not wait to add Umbrella Summer to my classroom library.  It’s perfect for fans of realistic fiction who also want a little more meat to their stories.

Annie is very careful. Most people would say she is too careful. She wears a helmet, kneepads, elbow pads, and more to ride her bicycle. She takes vitamins every morning. She reads about every disease you can imagine and checks herself for symptoms. Her parents worry about her and try to force her to stop being so paranoid. Annie doesn’t understand why they aren’t as careful as she is. No on worried about her big brother Jared, and he died. What seemed to be a simple hockey injury killed him because no one knew he had a heart defect. So she knows there is no such thing as being too careful, even if it means she has to give up some of her favorite things.

Umbrella Summer is a quick read. I picked it up planning to read only first chapter or so and ended up reading the entire book in one sitting. At the end, I didn’t know whether I wanted to laugh or cry. I was so proud of Annie at the end that I just wanted to hug her. Lisa Graff makes you feel like her characters are right there with you and I felt like I almost could reach over and squeeze Annie’s hand. I also loved the interaction between all the characters in the book. Annie’s parents are so wrapped up in their own grief that they try to hide their feelings from her, thinking they are protecting her. She also has a strong connection with her brother’s best friend. Finally, her own friends (even those she might not consider friends yet) are pushing her out of her shell in their own ways. All of the relationships felt real and true.

Despite the fact that story is propelled by the death of Annie’s brother, it’s not a story about death. It is a light story and one that I think many tweens will relate to. I know many worriers myself and though their reasons may be different than Annie’s, they will identify with her. Lisa Graff shares a powerful message with Umbrella Summer but doesn’t force it down the reader’s throat. This is a perfect book for tweens and I can’t wait to booktalk it when we get back from spring break.

*Copy purchased from Scholastic Book Clubs

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6 Responses

  1. nice… I have some scholastic coupons I have been saving…I have been looking to add to my realistic fiction collection.

    • My comments to this book is that i really like this book alots and it teaches me something is that when you like something in life always knows never ever to gave up, and always knows to move forward , and plus this book overall is pretty awsome if i do say so myself. The characters in this book has a awsome thingy that they all play very good at. so i hope that keep on writing this book .

  2. This one is on my TBR list. It is on our state’s recommended reading list for 3-5 grades in 2010-2011. So glad you liked it!

  3. I read this last year and also really enjoyed it. It is a good reminder that I should find mine off my shelf and book talk it as well. I didn’t ever book talk it for this year’s 6th graders, and I am sure that many of them would enjoy it.

  4. I think I’d have picked that one up for the cover alone –pretty! — so I’m glad to know that the inside of the book is just as strong!

  5. I am a long time reader of yours – My daughter’s home library is a reflection of many of the books that you have reviewed and loved. (I also share them with my mom, a school district librarian). I picked Umbrella Summer up for my daughter after reading this review.
    She is nearing 11 and is nearing the end of the book… and is torn about it. Torn because she likes it and yet… she doesn’t. I think the reason she doesn’t is because of the connections she has drawn between herself and the character. The “Umbrella” is one that she is now considering in her own life… to the point that last night we talked about her umbrella and how she might put it down… and my umbrella. For this reason, I love the book and think it is one she can return to next year (6th grade) or even later to find something new or different reflections of herself illustrated by the character.
    I would like to read the book myself having seen the connections that my daughter is making and how she is working through her own umbrella challenges as she reads the book.
    Thank you for this recommendation – for all your recommendations. I am thrilled that you are enjoying your high school classes and the YA book – and hope that you will continue to pass along good reads for the younger “tween” set too. I have yet to find a blog with the quality reviews that I have found here.

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