Harrison has an umbrella he refuses to let go of, even when indoors. Soon, all his friends are following suit for umbrellas can be enormous fun, indoors or out, whether used as a make-shift tent, a shield, a boat, or even an aid to flight!
But the parents all worry: umbrellas are somewhat unwieldy objects and surely it’s not good to be so obsessed with something? How can they encourage Harrison and his friends to put down their brollies and resume a more normal life? And could it be that what they wish for might have unintended consequences?
Harrison Loved His Umbrella by Rhoda Levine, illustrated by Karla Kuskin wittily combines two defining characteristics of many a childhood; the befriending of an object the child never wants to let go (although in this case it’s an umbrella, rather than a blanket or a soft toy), and the passion and intensity with which a new craze can sweep into the neighbourhood, delighting children whilst causing parents to despair (anyone remember Loom bands?) before it just as suddenly moves on, and there’s a new must-have in town.
Although originally published 54 years ago, Harrison Loved His Umbrella feels delightfully fresh and cheekily funny today. Its understated, dry humour, along with stylish, bold, clean-cut illustrations make for a thoroughly enjoyable read, where both adults and children will recognise themselves.
Levine’s text is unpatronising, and exciting as a result. Young readers and listeners will loving seeing people just like them remain calm and in control of a situation whilst their grown-ups panic and make something of a fool of themselves. This is a society where the children can and do call the shots.
Offbeat and imaginative, this zippy little book (much smaller than a traditional picture book) is well-observed, full of laughter and “grown-up” in a way my kids delighted in. Its subtle but empowering message about the legitimacy of the choices children make, the communities they form and the passions they develop is well worth sharing, and enjoying, even (or perhaps especially?) as an adult.
Once the giggling stopped we set about creating a small sea of our own umbrellas, using paper circles, pipe cleaners and beads (inspired by this video):
Before we assembled the umbrellas, we decorated them…
..and once they were complete we added them to our bunting extravaganza in the kitchen:
They make a delightfully jolly brolly addition, don’t you think?
Whilst we made our umbrellas we listened to:
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Harrison Loved His Umbrella include:
or choreographing your own umbrella dance – here’s one for inspiration
Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher, New York Review Books.