Title: The Umbrella Queen
Author: Shirin Yim Bridges
Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 4.2
Concepts: jobs, human resources, family businesses
Review: A young girl named Noot lives in a small Thai village that is renowned for its centuries-old tradition of producing beautiful hand-made umbrellas. In their family business, Noot’s father constructs the wooden umbrella frames, her grandmother makes the paper to cover the frames, and her mother paints flowers and butterflies on the stretched-open umbrellas. The family then sells the umbrellas they make to the village council shop. Noot understands the importance of this income to sustain the family’s livelihood, and when she is old enough, she helps her mother with the painting. However, deep down she is frustrated that the council shop only accepts flower-and-butterfly umbrellas, and she spends her spare time decorating miniature umbrellas with fanciful elephants. It takes a visit from the King for the annual Umbrella Queen contest for villagers to see the value of creativity and change.
The Umbrella Queen is an outstanding book with illustrations based on linoleum prints and pencil that add an authentic element of Thai culture. Mixed into the tale of artistic inspiration is an important lesson about family-owned businesses and the constraints they can face. This book gets high marks on all counts and is sure to please a wide readership.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children