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My Discover Your World Summer Reading Extravaganza is winding down, but I continue to be amazed at the high-quality and in-depth book reviews my guest posters have come forth with. This week is no exception either as the always-creative Stephanie from Mama-Lady Books shares an amazing book pick with JIAB readers. Enjoy!
A Peek into Thailand
By Stephanie Kammeraad of Mama-Lady Books
I love sharing stories from around the world with my children and students. I educate our two children at home, and I love that I can incorporate great books that are both mirrors and windows* for them throughout our days. I also coordinate and teach at a heritage camp each summer, which is a week-long day camp for children adopted internationally to learn more about their birth country and the birth countries of others. I’ve had children in my classes over the years who were adopted from China, South Korea, Thailand, Ethiopia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala (where our son was born), and Colombia (where our daughter was born.) It has been such a delight to discover and share stories and activities with them about these countries!
One of our favorite book discoveries has been The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo.
This heartwarming story is about a little girl named Noot who has shown that she is now skilled enough to paint her own umbrellas, just as her mother does. The story is set in a tiny village in northern Thailand, where villagers have been making and painting paper umbrellas for hundreds of years. Noot’s mother shows her how to paint flowers and butterflies on the umbrellas, and although Noot copies her mother’s work beautifully, when she is finally given five umbrellas of her own to paint, Noot paints the elephants that dance into her mind. All afternoon she sits and joyfully paints elephants on her umbrellas, until her mother notices and sternly reprimands her for deviating from what has always been and must continue to be painted. Disappointed, Noot concedes, knowing that “Painting umbrellas wasn’t just for fun. It was work to help feed the family.”
Every day after that Noot dutifully paints her umbrellas with flowers and butterflies, but in the evenings she takes the scraps of bamboo from her father and the mulberry paper from her grandmother to make doll-sized umbrellas just for her, on which she paints the elephants that bring her delight.
The tradition in her village is that every New Year’s Day, the woman who has painted the most beautiful umbrella is chosen as the Umbrella Queen and leads the villagers in a big umbrella parade. This year, the villagers decide to invite the King to come to choose the Umbrella Queen, as he has decided to spend the winter in his nearby winter palace. Two weeks before New Year’s Day, the King accepts their invitation!
When the day finally arrives, the villagers set out their most beautiful umbrellas along both sides of the road for the King to inspect as he comes through. He stops in front of Noot’s house, gives a compliment to her mother for the beauty of her umbrellas, but then notices some tiny umbrellas in the window sill behind her. Upon questioning, Noot admits to painting them. When asked why, and what is wrong with painting flowers and butterflies, Noot respectively responds with, “I like elephants.”
The smiling King then takes her hand and pronounces Noot as this year’s Umbrella Queen “because she paints from her heart.”
Shirin Yim Bridges has written this delightful story that I’ve witnessed being enjoyed as a read-aloud by children between the ages of five and ten. Shirin grew up in a Chinese-speaking family in California, but has traveled the world and lived in many countries. She is an author of numerous picture books as well as an award-winning publisher of Goosebottom Books, an independent publishing company that has published three different successful non-fiction and historical fiction series: The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Glorious Goddesses, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames, and The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses.
Although Noot is not a “real” princess or queen, I believe her story is just as important to read, to remind ourselves and our children to be proud of who we are, to be true to ourselves, and to share our talents with those around us. This reminds me of the famous words of author Marianne Williamson in her book, Return to Love: “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world…We are all meant to shine, as children do…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. “ Yes? Then let’s go!
Let your children’s creativity shine as they paint from their heart! Here are two activities that you can do as a follow up to reading The Umbrella Queen.
1. Paint nylon umbrellas with fabric markers or acrylic or tempera paint. (I used washable tempera paint with my students.) Just make sure that you lay down a covering for your workspace (newspaper, a plastic tablecloth, etc.) I provided large stencils for the kids to use for those who were interested, but most just painted “free style!” To purchase nylon umbrellas, check out: http://www.orientaltrading.com/diy-white-umbrellas-a2-56_9027.fltr?Ntt=umbrella.
2. Make and decorate paper umbrellas of various sizes. Simply cut out a circle (free-hand or by tracing something round), and then make a single cut from anywhere on the outside edge into the center of the circle. Grab hold of the circle on either side of the slit you just made and place one side over the other, creating a cone. Glue the cone into place, trim off any edge that you might need to trim off, and you have the umbrella canopy! Now is the time to decorate it using markers, paint, crayons, gluing sequins on, etc. Once dry, it’s time to attach the pole, which can be a plastic drinking straw, a tooth pick, or a bamboo skewer (most authentic) depending upon the size of your umbrella’s canopy. Place glue (white or hot) on the top of the “pole” and glue into place. Voila! A paper umbrella!
For a further peek into Thailand, my list of recommended picture books set in Thailand can be found here: http://www.mama-lady-books.com/thailand.html.
* “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” by Rudine Sims Bishop: http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/multicultural/mirrors-windows-and-sliding-glass-doors.htm
Stephanie Kammeraad is a writer, book-lover, and home educating mama of two. She is also a passionate multicultural children’s book advocate which you can see on her blog Parenting and Teaching Multiculturally, on her website Mama-Lady Books, and on her Facebook page. As a former Special Education teacher, Stephanie now facilitates multicultural story times, school book fairs, and presents professional development sessions for early and elementary educators. Her husband and children live in Grand Rapids, MI but you can often find them traveling throughout their home state, across the country, and beyond!