Graff, Lisa. 2009. UMBRELLA SUMMER. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061431876 [Suggested Grade Levels 3- 6]
Initially Annie is not likeable. She obsesses about safety gear and band aids; she’s mean to her friends; and she steals a medical book from her neighbor, all within the first two chapters. However, Graff doles out just enough information to draw us in and question Annie’s extreme state of worry and fear. “You used to be fun . . . but now you’re just careful.” Soon readers learn that Annie’s eleven-year-old brother, Jared, died several months ago from an undiagnosed heart condition and now Annie is worried about everything. Her parents are as devastated as she is and are unable to help her deal with her grief.
Annie continues to isolate herself until Mrs. Finch moves into the “haunted house” across the street. Each needs the other and they become friends while discussing their losses. She lends Annie a copy of Charlotte’s Web and helps her make up with her estranged best friend; but most importantly with Mrs. Finch’s guidance, Annie begins to see her worries as a hindrance rather than a protection.
Graff creates a memorable metaphor of Annie’s worries as an umbrella that she puts up to protect herself from grief: “It’s easier to be worried than to be sad . . . So you use worrying as a sort of protection.” The community that supports Annie when her parents are not able to support her triggers a lingering, heart-warming inspiration.
Have the children make a will. Discuss how they would distribute their possessions.
Other books by the same author:
Graff, Lisa. THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE: A NOVEL. ISBN 9780060875893
Graff, Lisa. THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF BERNETTA WALLFLOWER: A NOVEL. ISBN 9780060875930
By Cay Geisler