Harrison Loved His Umbrella

posted in: Karla Kuskin, Rhoda Levine | 5

Harrison_Loved_His_Umbrella_cover_300Harrison 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.

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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.

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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:

  • Umbrella by Lunch Money
  • The Umbrella Man by Flanagan & Allen
  • Whatever the Weather by the Music Shakers

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Harrison Loved His Umbrella include:

  • Taking part in an umbrella flash mob, like some Seattle residents did a few years back:

    or choreographing your own umbrella dance – here’s one for inspiration
  • Reading some other umbrella themed books, including ‘The Umbrella’ by Ingrid Schubert and Dieter Schubert, ‘Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella’ by Cerrie Burnell and Laura Ellen Anderson, ‘The Umbrella’ by Jan Brett or perhaps event Oliver Jeffer’s ‘Lost and Found’ which features an umbrella boat
  • Making umbrellas out of paper plates, as per this tutorial from Sparkly Stars or out of newspapers following the lead of AtoZ Home School

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher, New York Review Books.

    5 Responses

    1. Rebecca Stonehill

      I am endlessly amazed how you manage to involve your girls in such inspiring & creative ways – when on earth do they get round to doing homework?? Your activities look far more fun! ♥︎ Definitely going to try out making those little umbrellas with my lot on a rainy day, have a load of unused pipe cleaners lurking!
      Rebecca Stonehill recently posted..Why engaging in poetry is a way into writing for kids

      • Zoe

        Fortunately they don’t get much homework Rebecca and we deliberately don’t do clubs etc every night after school so we have time (we make time) to do this sort of thing that brings us all together.

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