Get yourself in a full-on rainy day mood with this charming, immersive book from Korea. It features an ever-growing number of children, each with a colourful umbrella, heading into town to go to school. But what makes the book really unusual is that it comes with a soundtrack, a CD of specially composed music.
The opening image shows a rather grey landscape, suitable for a rainy day, with a house to the lefthand side and a path stretching across the page to the right. Leaping out from the drab background like a golden sun is a single vivid yellow umbrella – seen from above – apparently setting off along the path.
As the yellow umbrella continues its journey, it is joined by other bright umbrellas all heading in the same direction. Each spread shows a different terrain on their journey.
One shows the line of children going over a bridge, with raindrops splashing down in decorative circles in the water below. Another depicts the procession weaving through a playground with the play equipment, still shown from a bird’s eye view, making semi-abstract shapes on the page.
Yet another spread shows them walking beside a fountain, its round outline echoing not only the many umbrellas but also the circular pattern of mosaic paving stones on the ground.
As the children head towards the city the roadway gets busier and tall buildings rise up on either side. Here both a level crossing for a train and a zebra crossing for cars need to be negotiated.
Eventually, though, the children pass through a glade of trees and we see one final image from above. It’s a riot of numerous colourful umbrellas almost dancing across the page and forming yet another beautiful abstract pattern.
On the final wordless spread we see, for the first time, a different viewpoint as the ‘camera’ lowers and the children and their umbrellas are shown from behind.
As the children head towards a building we assume to be school, they form a more focused arrow shape. Now little legs and Wellie boots are visible, as well as shimmering puddles. The school day is about to begin.
This book could prompt many activities to enjoy with young children, including discussions about the weather, colours, counting, friendship and life in a busy city.
It’s also a very inclusive book. In the blurb on the jacket cover, Mr Liu explains why the umbrellas help the children achieve an easy equality. ‘Whether they were boys or girls, fat or skinny, tall or short, I realised that under their umbrellas, all those physical differences disappeared.’
The attractive piano music, composed by Dong ii Sheen, greatly enriches the book. The first track is designed to accompany a reading of the images. The second track is a sung version of the song ‘Underneath the Sky’, the sheet music and words for which are both printed on the final spread. This song suggests a fun musical game for children to play while listening or singing, involving lifting, spinning and folding a pretend umbrella. The remaining tracks expand on the earlier musical themes.
The book was listed as one of The New York Times Best Illustrated Books 2002 and also won a Parenting Magazine Books of the Year Award.