Whew! What a day Monday was with all the amazing children and adolescent book awards. I sat glued to my computer for the hour broadcast and it is better than the Oscars for this book loving nut. I laughed, teared up, tweeted and cheered. If you haven’t seen the results, here is the official Caldecott announcement. Jon Klassen took the Caldecott for This Is Not My Hat (which I don’t own yet!) and he also received an honor for Extra Yarn. He is the second person in 75 years of awards to take the Caldecott and an honor within the same year. Hooray! (Leonard Weisgard is the other illustrator to accomplish this feat and that was back in 1947 when he won for The Little Island, and Rain Drop Splash received an honor.)
There were many other awards as well, some of which I know nothing about (sadly!). But I was excited to hear about Mo Willems Let’s Go For a Drive winning a Geisel Honor (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss). I already have several other winners on hold at the library that I haven’t seen yet, so I’ll be sure to pass along the word if I become enamored with one.
With all the awards and 2012 wrap up behind us, I’m itching to talk vintage books again as well as new ones. As the east coast is getting pummeled with rain right now, my mind got fixed on this cute little red book from 1959. So here is My Red Umbrella, by Robert Bright.
The story opens with a little girl going for a walk. She has brought her red umbrella because you never can tell if it is going to rain or not. As she trots along, it does indeed begin to rain and she soldiers on under the cover of her red umbrella. Soon a dog joins, and then two kittens, three goats, and more… and then finally, a big wet bear. The umbrella expands to cover them all and shelter them from the storm.
Once the storm lets up, they all leave as they came. Everyone goes home and the little girl is happy that she brought her red umbrella along.
This little book is simple and yet wonderful. The illustrations are delicate ink drawings that look so effortless; but are indeed not. They hold a great deal of emotion and energy. The addition of the single color of red is sharp and brilliant. The book is small (5.25″ x 6.75″), the text is simple and easily readable, and the story builds marvelously. There is actually a lovely gentle rhythm to the flow of the story which makes a nice little arc. It starts with the girl, then one dog, two kittens, three chickens, four rabbits. Seems simple as a counting book; but oh no, then you have another round of one animal up to four more and finally a big wet bear. His arrival makes me laugh every time. So unassuming and yet comical as well. Poor thing. Thankfully, the umbrella continues to grow and always covers them all. The other side of the story arc is them leaving in reverse order until you are left with just the sweet, sharing little girl and her bright red umbrella.
I am fascinated by books like this, not only their cute little size, but also the tight story that is created to be so simple. That takes incredible skill to create something so full that then seems very easy to those who behold it. Robert Bright had a wonderful loose style to his creations. He is best known for the Georgie the Ghost series, which began in 1944, and is now quite collectible. Although Bright intended to become a serious novelist, he realized that he could not support his family in that way, so he turned to children’s books. So interesting! I often hear people who think the exact opposite. Robert Bright did however write a few adult novels before his death in 1988.
I’m going to be on the lookout for more of Bright’s creations. I smile at what he attempted to create: “What I have tried to do in my (children’s) books is to present fantasy in the way of good stories with interesting characters and lots of humor and fun but with no silliness.” — Robert Bright.
By the way, if you’d like more links about the Caldecotts, here are some of my favorites: an NPR broadcast, a unique article on the Daily News about a perceived correlation between the Caldecott award winners and the mindset of that era, and the infamous Betsy Bird’s post-game recap. (Also, catch my Caldecott post mention on Design Mom. Thanks again Carter!)