Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Yim Bridges, illustrations by Taeeun Yoo

This story does a beautiful job of balancing respect for tradition and rules while also celebrating a dare-to-be-different spirit. In young Noot's village in Thailand, all the women and girls earn their living by painting umbrellas with pictures of flowers and butterflies. When Noot opts for painting carefree elephants practicing handstands, she is told by her parents to go back to the usual subjects. Noot obeys her parents, but in her free time she decorates miniature umbrellas with her beloved elephants. When the king notices Noot's stash of doll-size treasures, he declares her the Umbrella Queen, "because she paints from her heart." Those words are a reward fit for a queen. Or any child.