Plip, the Umbrella Man by David Sire and Thomas Baas

I’ve only recently discovered the publishers Little Gestalten. I’m very happy that I did, they publish beautiful picture books that are child-centred with a focus on good design and interesting illustration. I came across them at ELCAF this year, where I bought a copy of Issun Bôshi.

Take this one for example; I was first drawn to it by the beautifully designed cover. The attractive font set diagonally in faint colour almost fading into the white background. The graphic illustration of Plip the Umbrella Man. The red spine and the red circles and scarf that keep our eyes focused on the design.

The book works on many levels and is appropriate for a wide range of reading levels. The book works for young readers simply as a story about an umbrella man who is sad. But it can also challenge more advanced readers. The story is a metaphor for a man coping with complex emotions. The book provides a wealth of opportunity for readers to make deep thinking inferences. The book can be used as a spring board for children to consider and articulate their own emotions and how they cope with them.

The character in the book, ‘Plip’ started life as a normal man. It starts to rain one day and Plip starts to feel very sad. When this continued day after day, Plip had the idea to become an umbrella man. Protected from the rain, he lives his life without ever getting wet. However, Plip becomes very lonely.

One day, he meets someone like himself, an umbrella lady. Sadly, they cannot get close to one another because when their open umbrellas touch they keep them separated. Frustrated and unhappy, lonely and sad, Plip decides he has had enough and closes up his umbrella and walks away from the umbrella lady. He becomes overcome by saddness and anger which manifests into ferocious weather – Plip gets carried away in the tornados and typhoons. His umbrella turns inside out and begins to collect all of the rainwater. He can no longer hold up the almighty weight and he has no choice but to empty himself out.

Published by Little Gestalten.

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