The Children's Bookshelf: The Big Umbrella

Apr 16, 2018

THE BIG UMBRELLA written by Amy June Bates with Juniper Bates and illustrated by Amy Bates is a charming picture book in honor of inclusion and community. The main character is a loving red umbrella.

Early in this brightly-colored storybook the reader is told: “It is a big friendly umbrella. It likes to help. It likes to spread its arms wide. It loves to give shelter.”


The umbrella is first seen at the front door where a young child in a yellow raincoat takes it from its leaning place and steps out into the rain. A child in a blue jacket comes along and is the first to be invited under the umbrella followed by a ballerina in a pink tutu and a runner in shorts and tennis shoes. As space gets crowded the umbrella stretches its canvas to take in all no matter how tall or short, young or old or color of skin.


The brilliance of the illustrations is found in the perspective. Through most of the book the people under the umbrella are seen only from the feet up to the waist. By the end of the story the people under the umbrella spill out into a sunny park. Here the reader can see them all from head to toe. Senior citizens enjoy ice cream cones, a lady with a blue headscarf chats with others on a park bench, a man in a wheelchair takes his dog for a walk and children play together in this community of kindness.


THE BIG UMBRELLA by Amy June Bates with Juniper Bates serves as a beautiful metaphor for inclusion for children 4-7 years of age (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon and Schuster, 2018).


Questions and activities for THE BIG UMBRELLA


Study the final double page illustration showing the community of kindness in the park and find the following details: the owner of the big umbrella, a person on roller skates, two senior citizens, a woman wearing a red scarf on her head, a woman wearing a blue headscarf or hijab, four toddlers riding, a man in a wheelchair, two children in a tree, an artist and at least one act of kindness.


Each of the scenes taking place in this illustration could be a story. Select one scene and write a brief story about the people or animals who are in the scene. Make sure your story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Include details as to who they are, what they are doing or where they are going and how their experience under the big umbrella could have helped or influenced them. Play with your imagination.


Give this last illustration in the book a title based on what you see and how it makes you feel.