The second and final book in this sequence is being published in July and will be eagerly awaited by the many fans who loved the first story. It was originally due for publication in April, but the pandemic has meant that there has been a delay, as with so many other books this year. The adventures of Umbrella Mouse are the first books that the author has published and they are a stunning success. Anna’s imagination is glorious, but it is also grounded in the reality of what is actually achievable for the individual creatures, so we never have a sense of being outside the realms of possibility. The illustrations by Sam Usher are truly delightful, as you would expect from such an accomplished illustrator. I particularly love his series about a young boy and his grandfather and would definitely recommend “Snow” and his new title “Wild“. Not only has he produced the cover illustration for Anna’s book but he has also given us some really strong images to link with the text throughout the book.
I came across the first book when the proof copy was available at a conference I was attending, probably in late 2018 or early 2019. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it and especially the young mouse Pip Hanway who is the heroine of both stories. At the beginning of the sequence she is living on the premises of a well known umbrella maker in London, but then one day the shop is bombed and the owners killed; Pip has no where to go as her parents are dead, so she decides to follow an old family story about a museum in Italy, where the ancient umbrella she owns was originally from. As she starts her journey she meets up with a group of animals that support humans in the fight against the Nazi enemy; they are called Noah’s Ark and they agree to help her with her quest. Most of the action takes place in France, where Pip is instrumental in foiling a plot by German troops and their animal supporters.
The second story sees the delightful ‘Umbrella Mouse and her friends in the French animal resistance recovering from their battle against the Nazis and linking up with the group in the local area. Unfortunately the German animals, led by a renegade dove called Lucia, are still trying to kill Pip; making the band of friends decide to try and get to Paris, to help in freeing the city. Their adventures put them in great peril and they lose some of their comrades on the way, but their determination and sense of loyalty is what sees them get through.
This is a wonderful story of friendship and of courage and I am sure it reflects the feelings of the millions of humans that went through the trauma of the Second World War. The author has allowed the animals to experience the dangers that real people faced during this and other conflicts, but because it at a slight distance from us, it is easier for the audience to cope with. However we all understand the feelings when loved ones are lost and when something positive and uplifting happens to the central characters . This is a heartwarming story at so many levels and is perfect for the older middle grade. Whilst it is an animal story it does not shy away from describing the dangers and tribulations that were faced by ordinary people during this period of history and is very suitable for reading to children who are studying the war.
I am not giving the game away about the ending, but I will tell you that there is a very fitting ending and that we are left with a sense of hope for the future. This really is highly recommended reading