I heard someone compare this book to C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books and even Madeline L'Engle's sci-fi books. I'm not quite sure where those comparisons came from, for one thing, talk about setting the bar pretty high! For another, I didn't sense a similarity between The Blue Umbrella and any of those books, what I did sense was more of a Lemony Snickets or a Charlie and The Chocolate Factory vibe (the new version with the creepy Johnny Depp and the really peculiar short man that appeared everywhere). There is definitely an audience for this book. In fact, in the 9-12 age group this book has blockbuster potential. It was not written for me and I had trouble getting through the first part, it was pretty depressing actually. Zac's mother dies getting struck by lightning, he has no one else except his creepy Aunties from Five Corners. He has to go live with them and things just get stranger. A short man named Butler lives there with them and the Aunties are cruel. Really cruel. You just feel sorry for Zac. Then he meets Dada and you really feel sorry for him. Dada wants Zac to steal Mr. Porter's blue umbrella. Mr. Porter runs the general store. Zac starts working for him after school but Mr. Porter is the one nice person in his life at this time and he just can't get himself to take the umbrella. Things are not as they seem with Mr. Porter and Zac starts discovering some very weird things happening in Five Corners - the weather, the Barber, Chelsea who doesn't talk, Ches who only talks about the weather... By the end I was curious how everything was going to turn out and I can really see fans of books like Lemony Snickets loving this book. For that group of readers I highly recommend this book.
Poor Zachary Sparks, his father died when he was but a young toddler, and now he is an orphan at ten years old. His mother gone, in an instant, struck by lightning as she walked on the golf course near their home. What is going to happen to Zac? Hang on to your seats and fasten your seat belts for the story to come of what become of Zac is a wild ride!!Two ancient Aunties, sweep down and take Zac home with them, and the first thing he realizes, is they did not allow him to bring any of his things, even his clothing. The second scary thing is, they refuse to call him by his name, he is called Boy. The third thing he realizes, is he is not in a loving home, they lock him in his room, they beat him with a cane and they are evil and cruel old women. Five Corners, the town the Aunties live in, is a very strange town indeed, as if there is a horrible secret, that all the townspeople are keeping. There is!! A secret so wild, that Zac is having a hard time believing it. Strange lights over the store across the street fascinate him, and begin the downward spiral. Drawn like a moth is drawn to light, Zac is caught trying to investigate, and nearly beaten by the aunties, because they think he is trying to steal a fur coat and run away. A visit to Dada, the even more ancient father of the Aunties, is a horrifying experience that lives Zac physically ill. Told by the old man, that he must steal a blue umbrella owned by the store across the streets, proprietor, Zac begins to learn he is in the middle of a nightmarish reality. Little old people the size of children, strange vendors who do not speak, but you can hear them talking in your mind. Yes life is strange at Five Corners. This book will keep you enthralled, it is not your typical fantasy book, it is a book full of imagination and it is a story most definitely to read with your children. The book ends with an author interview and discussion questions with Mike Mason.