I'm honored and excited today to be the last stop on the blog tour for the new picture book The Green Umbrella, written by debut author Jackie Azúa Kramer and illustrated by the talented Maral Sassouni. As a special treat, after you read this post, head over to Maria's Movers to read dance educator Maria Hanley's ideas for incorporating movement into a reading of this imaginative and heartwarming book!
We've lived in northern California for about three and a half years, and it's rained more in the past two months than it has in all the other months we've lived here combined. That's a lot of much-needed rain for California...and why I especially appreciate the timing of The Green Umbrella's publication by NorthSouth Books. Given that this is the rainy (or snowy) season in many parts of the country and even some parts of the world, I'm sure I'm not the only one who can relate to the opening scene of the book...
One rainy day an Elephant was taking a walk with his green umbrella.
Hopefully the children who read this book (or who have it read to them) will also relate to how imaginative the characters in the book are. Besides the elephant, there's a hedgehog, a cat, a bear, and an old rabbit -- and each has a different idea of what the green umbrella actually is.
Along came a Hedgehog.
"Excuse me," said the Hedgehog. "I believe you have my boat."
"Your what?" asked the Elephant.
The hedgehog thinks the umbrella's a boat, the cat says it's a tent, the bear is sure it's his flying machine, and the old rabbit is convinced it's a cane. It's not clear if the animals actually believe the umbrella is the objects they mention, or whether they are just being imaginative. But honestly, it doesn't really matter, and therein lies the beauty of this book. Children, after all, play with their stuffed animals as if they are alive, and some even have imaginary friends. Who are we to tell them what is real and what is not, when their minds are so active and their inner worlds so rich.
Through the imagination of illustrator Maral Sassouni, several little mice also appear and re-appear throughout the book, carrying warm-colored umbrellas of their own to contrast nicely with the cool green of the elephant's umbrella. Young children are so good at picking up all the artistic details in picture books, so I'm sure they'll enjoy searching for, and maybe even counting, all the mice they see.
In addition to being imaginative in its writing and illustration, The Green Umbrella is likely to spark the imaginations of its readers. You could help this process along by asking a young reader "What else could we use a green umbrella for?" Or you could brainstorm other everyday objects such as, let's say, a cooking pot. You could ask the reader to think about what else a cooking pot could be. A baseball cap? A drum? A bed for a small animal? The possibilities are endless!
This book could also be a great springboard for creating movement. I can imagine preschoolers or a class of young dancers moving as if they are boats, tents, or flying machines. I'm sure Maria Hanley from Maria's Movers has some other great ideas for movement, which you can check out here.
And even though this post focuses on imagination, The Green Umbrella also includes strong themes of friendship and generosity -- all of which you can see in this fantastic book trailer. Watch the trailer, pick up a copy of the book, and let your imagination soar along with it!