Anna Fargher’s debut book, The Umbrella Mouse, is simply beautiful. It is outstanding that such a brilliant book was written on an iPhone on her daily commute to work. Fargher’s writing is based on thorough research around the events of World War 2 and inspired by the true stories of the animals involved in the conflict. This thorough research and knowing that there is truth to what you are reading make the read all the more emotional and harrowing. Fargher’s wonderful writing is supported by charming illustrations by Sam Usher which just add another dimension to the book, bringing certain moments of the narrative to life. This is a cracking tale of finding hope and courage when all has been lost.
The year is 1944 and Pip’s world is shattered one evening when a bomb drops on her home and her life inside the umbrella is destroyed. But Pip is fierce and has a mission and is determined to see that mission through. She is willing to risk everything, including her precious umbrella, even if it will take her right into the path of the Nazis. With the help of Noah’s Ark she just might be able to survive.
The Umbrella Mouse is not a book for sensitive souls. It is an emotional roller coaster and bad things happen, this is wartime after all. There were plenty of moments when I could feel the teardrops forming in my eyes, and I was struggling to read on as I didn’t want anything awful to happen. This is essential reading for children when studying World War 2. So often in schools the classics are revisited time and again - Good Night Mister Tom, The Diary of Anne Frank, Carrie’s War, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit - and rightly so. However, The Umbrella Mouse focuses on a different aspect of war, the animals and their stories, and these stories need to be heard. The battles that they fought and how they were a weapon as equally as deadly as bombs and guns.
Pip, the Umbrella Mouse, is a wonderful character. Despite her small stature she is feisty and fierce. Full of resilience and determination, this big-hearted little risk-taker can also be a little bit irresponsible at times (which made me love her even more). I loved the relationships between the various animals and how they mimic those of humans. The friendships, the lies, the love, the loss, the hope, the courage, the deceit.
Anna Fargher gives us all an important lesson in that we are all able to make a difference no matter how small we are. Even in the very darkest of times we can always find something that is worth fighting for. That there are times that we will need to take risks and be brave. I was an emotional mess after reading this, but as Bernard Booth says, “Above all, we must be brave.” Hopefully the tears dry up in time for the next Umbrella Mouse adventure.
Recommended for 9+.