March 02, 2017

Under the Umbrella

Written by Catherine Buquet
Illustrated by Marion Arbona
Translated by Erin Wood
Pajama Press
978-1-77278-016-1
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
March 2017


If Under the Umbrella proves anything, it's that there's always a little sunshine associated with the gloominess of rain if you just open your eyes to see beyond the umbrellas.
From Under the Umbrella 
by Catherine Buquet 
illus. by Marion Arbona
A grumbling man dashes through the streets of the town, bracing himself and his umbrella against the sleeting rain.  The man’s suit and umbrella seem as colourless as he is, the only colour the pink of his  raw hands.  He is wet, he is cold and he is late.  It’s not surprising that the older man does not see the young boy mesmerized by the edible treats glowing from within a bright and warm inviting shop.  But when the wind hurls the man’s umbrella away, the rosy-cheeked little boy retrieves it for the man who shows his gratitude with a red rhubarb-raspberry tart. That delightful treat brings the two into a shared experience that takes the chill off the weather for the two unlikely friends.  
From Under the Umbrella
by Catherine Buquet 
illus. by Marion Arbona
Under the Umbrella was first published in French as Sous le parapluie (Les 400 coups, 2016) and garnered much attention for its simple but restorative story told with the pencil and gouache illustrations of Marion Arbona, the artist behind numerous French-language books like Arachnéa and English-language picture books The Good Little Book and Sam’s Pet Temper.  Catherine Buquet’s text suggests a darkness to the man’s trek in the rain, using words like "grumbled", "growled", "muttered", "attacked", "forced", and “With striding feet and stormy heart” (pg. 15), making it evident that the man’s mood is as foul as the weather.  Yet when she introduces the boy who is “entranced” “at a warm and glowing window” and uses words like “gazes”, “the wonders”, “delight”, “shimmered” and “treat”, the atmosphere changes completely, though the rain continues to fall.  What a great lesson in word choice for older readers and writers to witness the impact vocabulary has on atmosphere.  Marion Arbona’s artwork conforms to that climate, using dusky greys and sharp angles for the dreary scenes  while shining bright yellows and reds and pinks within the patisserie and then upon the two as they savour a shared treat.  The interaction between the balding older man in the pin-striped suit and the little boy in cap and short pants is fleeting but colossal in its momentary importance.  I’m glad the boy was taking the time to enjoy the visual display and that the man took the time to acknowledge the boy.  It’s a small thing, but it’s a good thing.

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