Thursday, April 15, 2010
Mike Mason's The Blue Umbrella ~ Reviewed
The Blue Umbrella: A Novel (Paperback)
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2009)
An orphan faces an evil magician in this literary fantasy for readers of all ages that probes the depths of good and evil.
The life of ten-year-old Zac Sparks changes overnight when his mother is killed by lightning. He's sent to live in Five Corners with his Aunties, two cruel old hags who obviously don't like him. It isn't long before Zac knows something really strange is going on. Five Corners is populated with weird characters--a midget butler, a girl who doesn't speak, a blind balloon seller, and a mysterious singer who is heard but not seen. Then there's the Aunties' father, Dada. Zac's first encounter with Dada is so terrifying he faints dead away.
The one bright spot is Sky Porter, the proprietor of the general store across the street, a friendly soul who encourages Zac--when the Aunties aren't looking--and shows him a kindness that is sadly lacking from his dismal life. But Sky isn't what he seems either, and when Zac learns Sky's amazing secret he realizes, to his dismay, that this wonderful man may have a very dark side as well.
Discovering that Dada is an evil magician who is intent on stealing the ultimate treasure, Zac knows many lives are at stake, including his own. With time running out, he must turn to the one person who might be able to help: Sky Porter. Can Zac trust him?
“Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb come the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are his as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.” (Job, Chapter 38 verses 28-30)
Weather is something that shapes our lives in tremendous ways. Sunshine brightens our mood, tornadoes and hurricanes terrify us, and a beautiful rainbow leaves us speechless with wonder. Mike Mason has taken the essence of the weather, from its raging terror to its silent an awesome beauty and built upon it a children’s fantasy that will be long remembered. As a matter of fact, The Blue Umbrella will always remind me of the very specific and trustworthy ways that God arranges every event of my life.
Simply but very intelligently written, The Blue Umbrella begins as a rather dark tale of loss and anguish. Pricilla and Esmeralda Henbother come swooping down into Zachery Sparks’ life during one of his darkest moments and make it even darker. Swept away to the very strange town of Five Corners, Zack begins to notice many unusual things about its people – especially the people and events going on at Porter’s store across the street. Asking non-stop questions, Zack eventually uncovers many of the secrets in the town. With each discovery, Zack learns something about the human heart and its fickle ability to turn abruptly from friendship to vengeful anger. Zack also learns that trustworthiness is the foundation of life’s most important relationships.
As in any good children’s fantasy, the bad guys are especially cruel and scary people, and the good guys seem almost too kind to be sincere. However, Mike Mason has turned these polar opposites into believable characters that draw you deep within the story. The author’s own interview at the end of the book assures the reader that this powerful reflection of Christ’s love for us was not purposefully intended from the start, but it flows beautifully from the story as I’m sure it flows from the heart of the author.
Mike Mason’s novel, The Blue Umbrella, will provide parents with many teachable moments with their children. I think it would be particularly effective read aloud and discussed as a family. No matter how it’s enjoyed, whether individually or as a family, The Blue Umbrella will be a story that children will return to again and again for the sheer pleasure of a well-told story. Mike Mason is a very talented wordsmith, and I hope he will continue to write stories for children.
Oh, and just another note...this is a 400+ page novel, so be aware! This is intended for children 9-13, and particularly those who like to read.
Reviewed by: Kim Ford