Zig and the Magic Umbrella

(images used with permission from Dial Books; ©2015 Sylvie Kantorovitz)

Zig and the Magic Umbrella, by Sylvie Kantorovitz; Dial Press, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5. (On Sale March 15, 2015)

We’re looking at another rain-themed book this week, and this time it’s Sylvie Kantorovitz’s latest read-aloud, Zig and the Magic Umbrella. A timid, suspender-wearing blue ogre wakes up to a dark and rainy day, but when he grabs a red umbrella flying by his window, Zig is carried away to a magical forest. There, he meets a frantic yellow bird who needs help freeing his flock from a mean monster’s lair, and Zig summons his courage to save the day. That red umbrella comes in handy too – it transforms into a bridge, a boat, a lever, and even a dart.  Kantorovitz’s collage and acrylic illustrations stay in the primary color range but vary in tone, creating a warm and inviting imaginary world. Her use of color recalls the whimsical exuberance of fellow French illustrator Hervé Tullet. The story is just long enough for young readers, and really serves as backdrop to the wonderful art. In all, Zig’s adventure is a cute story that will encourage children to use their imaginations to create their own adventures on dreary days.

Blue on Blue, by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes; Beach Lane Books, $17.99, 48 pages, ages 2-5.

Thunderstorms have a powerful and sometimes frightening impact on young children, but Blue on Blue dispels some of that apprehension through rhyme and rhythm. Dianne White’s first childrens book describes the swell of an impending storm with minimal, well-chosen words. In fact, the text is so spare and the pacing so quick that I am surprised at the recommended age range, which is  five to eight year olds.  It is a perfect selection for toddlers, however – just long enough to keep little children entertained, and White’s word repetition reinforces key concepts. Caldecott Medal winner Beth Krommes’ (The House in the Night; Grandmother Winter) instantly recognizable scratchboard and watercolors of children splashing and jumping in puddles are full of rich detail and are a welcome celebration of rainstorms.