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*The Umbrella Queen* by Shirin Bridges, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
The Umbrella Queen
by Shirin Bridges, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
Ages 5-8 40 pages HarperCollins June 2008 Hardcover    

A little girl named Noot lives in a small Thai village that specializes in making beautiful umbrellas adorned with traditional designs of flowers, vines and butterflies. In her own family, her father makes the umbrella frames, her grandmother makes the paper covers for the umbrellas, and her mother paints the umbrellas.

Noot is finally allowed to paint the umbrellas too, and is given five umbrellas ready to be painted, along with her very own set of brushes and paints. Noot sits in a sunny corner in the garden and starts to paint…but what she paints are not the traditional designs. Instead, elephants romp across the umbrellas, chasing butterflies, attempting handstands, and just having fun being silly.

Alas, the village council’s shop will only carry flower-and-butterfly umbrellas, so Noot must follow tradition as well; making umbrellas to sell in the village shop is what puts food on the table for this family.

All year long, Noot works hard at painting butterflies and flowers on umbrellas, but she also makes tiny, doll-sized umbrellas out of scraps of leftover materials on which to paint her beloved elephants. When the King arrives in the village to select that year’s Umbrella Queen, he picks Noot’s tiny umbrellas for having been painted “from the heart.”

The Umbrella Queen is a touching book about duty and the desire for independence, told in a manner that remains faithful to Thai culture. This is author Shirin Yim Bridges’s second picture book; her first, Ruby’s Wish, won the Ezra Jack Keats Award. The beautiful and unique artwork by Taeeun Yoo was inspired by traditional linoleum prints. This is a great book for introducing American children to other cultures in a readily accessible way.

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  Usha Reynolds/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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