The Umbrella Maker’s Son

Little, Brown. Jun. 2023. 384p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316470872.
Gr 3-7–A quirky middle grade fantasy set on planet Erde, in a city called Roan and featuring Oscar, 11, cued as white, and his brilliant and fearless best friend Saige, also 11, who uses a wheelchair and is described as having brown skin. Roan is surrounded by a guarded wall; it rains so much there that there are 47 different types of names for it (wittily described in footnotes and in a glossary at the end). Oscar’s family umbrella business is failing due to competition from Brawn Industries. To save money, Oscar’s father tells Oscar he’ll have to drop out of school to become his apprentice in a business Oscar has zero interest in. Then Saige informs him she’s moving to a wealthier and less rainy part of Roan. At the mysterious Night Market run by the Farsouthians, who have elf blood, Oscar learns of a prophecy by a mysterious Farsouthian girl. He discovers the secret of Brawn Industries and how they are causing it to rain constantly in Roan. He and Saige set off on an exciting and harrowing journey to stop Brawn Industries as Saige’s father resorts to dangerous lengths to defeat them. Enhanced by Orlu’s black-and-white illustrations, this book starts out leisurely, giving readers time to appreciate descriptive settings, inventive foods, and types of rain as it builds to an action-packed climax.
VERDICT Readers looking for an introspective, weather-driven fantasy focused on friendship, family, and community will enjoy this thoughtful story of young people fighting greed.

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