Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
Author: Mike Mason
Sometimes - not often - words on a page bring forth the joyous memories that you buried a long time ago under the 9-to-5 problems that you inevitably have when you reach adulthood. It hardly ever happens that a story can whisk you away into your past and let you remember the fantastic times you had and the fantastic people you once knew. Maybe its because "mass" hysteria only surrounds books these days that are able to be put on the big screen, and cast that perfectly handsome heartthrob that make all the women swoon. But beauty, true beauty that fills your soul, comes around once in a lifetime. This is it, Dear Readers. The Blue Umbrella is THE story that will reach into your heart and make you cry every tear and laugh every laugh that you've ever had. It is a true and complete gift.
Our main character is Zac Sparks; he is a young boy who has just lost the one and only thing in life he can't live without - his mother. She takes a walk on the golf course by their house and gets struck by lightning. At the funeral, the skies darken and the hail pummels the coffin, and Zac is sent into a strange and frightening world to live with his Aunties in the small town of Five Corners. His Aunt Esmeralda has a voice that reminds him of a woman with a file stuck in her throat, "scraping" human warmth off every word she utters. His other Auntie, Pris, is a short, incredibly round woman, who likes to wear funny hats and dress herself in only hot pink. There is a church in this small town run by a Reverend who likes to stand in the pulpit and raise his arms and voice in the air, like he's preening for some invisible camera. There is a small school where the teacher likes to take a "whack" at his students whenever they get out of hand. And...there's a small town grocery called Porter's Store. And Mr. Porter's store is where the action is. Mr. Porter is a mystical man, who has many secrets that make the town talk behind his back. There are strange lights that Zac can see beaming from the roof of his store at night; there are footsteps coming from the second floor where no one lives; and, most importantly, Mr. Porter carries a blue umbrella with him at all times - an umbrella that Zac's mean old Aunties want with all their cold, dead hearts.
Zac is quickly caught up in the whirlwind of this strange town and its people. His Aunties are cruel and love to punish him for anything and everything that's wrong in their world. Aunt Esmeralda carries an old, heavy cane and uses it to punish Zac for things he doesn't clearly understand. Butler, is a wise old man who works for the Aunties. He scurries around their big house taking care of things, throwing birthday parties, and polishing the silver over and over. He's a good employee, but a little off. There is something deep in the man's eyes - a mysterious light - that is begging Zac to figure out the mystery of what is wrong in the small town.
One of Zac's punishments is to hammer bent nails for the Reverend. He goes to this man's home and becomes fast friends with the Reverend's son - Chesterton. This young man is all about one thing and one thing only...the weather. He loves everything meteorological - obsessed with it, in fact. He doesn't laugh or play like regular kids; he's like an old soul who is usually deep inside his own faraway thoughts. Chesterton's sister's name is Chelsea. She's a tiny girl with a huge smile that's as bright as the sun. But she doesn't speak; she can only offer Zac answers to his questions with the whirling and twirling of her small fingertips. And she tries, with all her might, to send him a warning....
There is horror in this town. There is an old man living in the Big City that Zac can see in the distance; an old man named Dada who wants something from Zac. A very special something...the blue umbrella. Zac is torn between pain and freeedom. The only person he even likes in the horrible town is Mr. Porter and he doesn't want to hurt him or lose his friendship by stealing his umbrella. But the Aunties and Dada will hurt him if he doesn't do what they ask, so he sets out to become a thief in order to save himself from the pain of Esmeralda's cane. When Zac begins working for Sky Porter, however, he uncovers the mysteries that the amazing man holds dear. Zac is filled with wonder, love, awe, friendship, warmth, and fear. How will this work out? How can he steal the umbrella? How can he not? Add to this story a man named Eldy, who sells balloons and flowers that are filled with a magic nobody has ever seen, and you have a book, literally, to die for.
I was born in a small town like Five Corners. And I had a father who sat in front of the television every night to listen to the next day's weather reports. He'd be walking down our driveway sometimes, with his amber sunglasses covering his eyes, and stop all of a sudden. He'd look up at the sky like he, alone, was being told the future by the white puffy clouds, or the gunmetal gray sky, depending on the day. He knew when it would snow, rain, shine - the man knew it all. I loved this book because it reminded me of that wonderful man I call Dad, whose now polishing the golden doors up in Heaven. In fact, there was a line this author wrote when he described Mr. Porter: "He had a face full of such character that Zac understood what a face is, or could be: a clear image of the soul." Mr. Porter had a beautiful soul and so did my father. I want to thank Mr. Mason for that line, and a ton of others, because I was able to see my beloved father's eyes again.
Weather is a great metaphor to use for life - not to mention the "fads" that happen in book publishing. There are times in our history when the clouds rush past us like vapor trails in a bright blue sky and we race through the crimes stories cover to cover; then, in the blink of an eye, twilight comes, the stars begin to twinkle, and romance descends upon us and makes us wish for that prince charming to come along and save us from ourselves. Other days we rush through the rain, thunder and lightning that tries to stop us from our action and adventure, as we speed through tunnels, caves, and history to decipher a "DaVinci-like" code. Then, the next month, we decide to go out in that moonless dark night and scare ourselves to death with the blood-curdling screams that come from the lieks of King and Koontz. Now, a new age is dawning. And we should be, as a reading public, extremely happy about this. Young adult fiction is coming and coming...each book I'm reviewing in this category is getting better and better...like a freight train of thought provoking, fun, sweet, scary, adventurous, romantic stories that are truly illuminating the shelves of our local libraries. You can thank people like this author, Mike Mason, for this wonderful event. His book is certainly among the "best of the best." I couldn't put it down and neither will you. Take my advice: I guarantee you that you will open up these pages and end up reading it so many times that the cover will fall right off, so don't buy one copy of The Blue Umbrella, buy two. You'll need a spare.
Until Next Time,