I first heard Taro Yashima‘s Umbrella when my third grade teacher read it aloud to our class. It’s about a little girl named Momo who gets an umbrella and boots for her third birthday. She can’t wait to try them out, and longs for a rainy day, since sometimes umbrellas are impractical in the wind and sun. Finally, a rainy day comes….
The colorful illustrations grabbed me first, then the Japanese words and writing. To this day, writing and speaking in another language fascinates me; however, I’m only fluent in English. The story spoke to me because I have always disliked rainy days. I know rain is necessary for the flowers, grass, and trees. It’s just the way of things to have rain. This story challenged me to look at “bad weather” differently and to see rain in new ways–maybe, just maybe, it’s possible to even enjoy it. As the years passed, I learned to not let wet weather bring me down. Sometimes, a day inside is good.
I saw a copy of Umbrella at a school book fair a couple of months after the class discussion. Alas, I didn’t buy it. I’ve always thought of the book as “the one that got away,” because I outgrew it quickly. Every once in a while, I get nostalgic and look at it again.
Here’s a children’s librarian reading Umbrella:
I recently discovered one of Yashima’s other works, Crow Boy, which I like even better. It teaches a beautiful lesson in never counting anyone out, and tat each person has something to offer, Very often, it’s an understanding and caring teacher who brings these qualities out.
Here’s another reading by a different librarian: