'The Umbrella Mouse' is a unique and daring story full of humour, warmth and the realities of war. Fabulously told and beautifully illustrated, it surpasses expectations in its depiction of the Second World War, as seen by animals.
When a bomb destroys Pip Hanway's home, the umbrella shop James Smith & Sons, the young mouse is forced to fend for herself in a war torn London in 1944. Having lost her parents, but still carrying her umbrella home, Pip dares to embark on a journey to Northern Italy to see her relatives at the world's only umbrella museum. But to do so Pip must join the animal resistance, Noah's Ark, and face big dangers that will test the courage of her little heart.
In spite of many classic Second World War children's books, children today still do not know enough about its history. Thankfully 'The Umbrella Mouse' is a wonderfully different story set towards the end of that last war that is sure to captivate a whole new generation of children. The conceit is zany but brilliant. By focusing on an orphaned mouse the reader is at once confronted by the horrors of war to the smallest degree. I found it truly compelling to imagine a bombed out London through the eyes of a mouse. By taking history and down-scaling it, we see it with renewed perspective and horror. Anna Fargher does all this with genius skill; balancing the whimsical with warmth and humour while tackling the realities of war with a paw-light touch. There were moments that I was genuinely moved. Poor Pip loses everything and Fargher gives her little heart such huge range that it becomes incredibly affecting. Children will love this but there is so much to question and contemplate about the Second World War too: the bombing of London, the use of the underground, the cabinet war rooms, the resistance in France, the experience of young soldiers and the role played by animals. Fargher brings all this to life in a way that few authors have dared to do.
As a child I loved books such as 'Redwall' and 'Blitz Cat', and so I would have absolutely adored this. Sam Usher's illustrations compliment the text beautifully and the cover itself is a wonder to capture anyone's attention. This is sure to become a curriculum staple and a classic tail of the Second World War!