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Literary Umbrellas
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Literary Umbrellas

By kerryclare
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tagged: umbrellas
I've been collecting literary umbrellas for years, possibly to make up for all the actual umbrellas I've left on trains and busses in that same period of time. And it turns out I'm not alone in my preoccupation—Marion Rankine had recently published BROLLIOLOGY: A HISTORY OF THE UMBRELLA IN LIFE AND LITERATURE, which I can't wait to read. And whose release seems like a perfect occasion for a list of umbrellas in Canadian literature!
Under the Umbrella

Under the Umbrella

by Catherine Buquet
illustrated by Marion Arbona
translated by Erin Woods

When the wind snatches a cranky man's umbrella and drops it at a the feet of little boy outside a patisserie, the hasty curmudgeon slows down long enough for an unlikely friendship to blossom.

The weather has never been worse. The man with the stormy heart is soaked and he's going to be late! His mood is as black as the sky. Outside a nearby patisserie, a little boy stands under the shelter of its awning, gazing at the beautiful treats on display.

When the wind snatches the man's umbrella and drop …

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The Doll's Alphabet
Why it's on the list ...
“In the meantime, I found work in a dollhouse shop. We sold tiny things to put in them, from lamps to Robert Louis Stevenson books with real microscopic words in them. Peter got a job in a graveyard, installing tombstones, digging graves, helping with Catholic burial processes, and cleaning up messes. He would find diaphragms, empty bottles of spirits, squirrel kinds left over from hawks’ meals, and dozens of umbrellas. He brought the umbrellas home, until our apartment started to look like a cave of sleeping bats. I had an umbrella sale one Saturday when he was at work:


It was an overcast day so I did well for myself. ”

—From “The Mouse Queen,” by Camilla Grudova
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Some Things I've Lost

Some Things I've Lost


A wallet, a set of keys, a pair of glasses — these are some of the household objects that disappear and are fantastically reconstituted in Cybèle Young’s inventive new picture book. Minimal text conveys the magic of a world where even inanimate objects are constantly undergoing a process of growth, transformation and change.

An introduction describing the frustration we feel when we lose something is followed by a catalogue of misplaced objects. Each item is shown first in its original form …

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The Umbrella Mender

The Umbrella Mender

tagged : literary

Though a stroke has left her mute, the story Hazel MacPherson has to share is unforgettable. As a talented nurse in the early 1950s, she went north to Moose Factory to help fight the epidemic of tuberculosis that was ravaging the Cree and Inuit peoples. Each week the boat brought new patients from the James Bay, Hudson Bay and Nunavik communities to the little hospital. It was a desperate undertaking, fraught with cultural and language difficulties that hampered the urgent, sometimes reckless, e …

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Moose Factory, Ontario, June 1951


they had another hour of light if they were lucky. Lachlan stood beside her and squinted upstream as if by force of will alone the HBC Mercer could be made to appear on the horizon. The hospital dock dipped with the irregular rhythm of every impatient shift of his weight. It wasn’t the first time the survey boat was late, but that wasn’t it: he was not, by nature, an impatient man. The restlessness Hazel knew well, and it was born of a genuine appetite for the work they’d both come here to do. The boat they waited for carried more than a dozen Inuit patients, every one of them with disease-clouded lungs, from Great Whale and a few posts further north.

Yesterday she’d stood at his office door and watched him lift one spectral x-ray film after another to the light box, saw him shake his head in disbelief, heard the repeated catch in his throat. The swaths of gauzy clouds on this lot of chest films, flown in from Great Whale for him to examine, seemed to choke the air out of his own lungs. The rate of tuberculosis infection was worse than he had expected, worse than he’d seen in any other Inuit community, and she knew that this reality would cast doubt on all of his preparations. Even now he’d be recalculating dosages, recounting beds and rewriting requisitions, an endless series of minute adjustments to the running tally in his head. Only the boat’s arrival would slow this constant computation, and then only temporarily. His agitation came off him like smoke.

Hazel had done everything she could do. Extra beds were ready, the kitchen was preparing broth and bread, a dispensary inventory waited on his desk. She was beginning to wonder whether she should check in with Cook when she heard the boat. There it was at the bend in the channel, skimming the north shore of Sawpit Island, mainsail down. The light wind was a hand run the wrong way against the surface of the water and the sound of the boat’s hull skipping across it was a drum roll. She checked her watch. Nine forty-five. It would easily be ten-thirty by the time they were settled in the wards.

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also available: Paperback Audiobook (CD)
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Why it's on the list ...
“‘Have you seen my umbrella?’ a hyper Jamaican woman demands.
‘I left it right here.’ She points where I’m sitting.
‘I didn’t see it,’ I say.
‘I left it right here. Did you see it?’ The cuffs of her jacket are frayed, buttons are missing. I look behind and under my chair, go back to Emily.

The earth reversed her Hemispheres–
I touched the Universe–
And back it slid– and I alone–
A Speck upon a Ball–
Went out upon Circumference–
‘Have you seen my umbrella?’ the Jamaican woman demands of another bottom-feeder. ‘I left it right here.’ She points at me again, and I know she thinks I’ve swiped it. ‘It was striped.’
‘I can’t see it anywhere,’ I say. ‘Sorry.’
‘I left it right here. Striped.’
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Umbrella Man

Umbrella Man

also available: eBook
tagged : crime

The fourth book in the gripping Inspector Ramirez series by bestselling author Peggy Blair.

When Mama Loa, a witch doctor, tells Inspector Ramirez that people in the sky are going to die, he thinks she’s crazy. After all, there hasn’t been a violent death in Havana in months.
But things quickly change when a Russian is murdered, execution-style, on the Malecón and three flight crew members die in suspicious circumstances. When Russian intelligence officer Slava Kadun arrives in Havana warnin …

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Umbrella Man 1

An old black woman sat on the curb beside Ramirez’s small blue car. She lifted her head as he approached, fixing her dark eyes on his. He couldn’t tell from her expression if she was sad or angry.

Inspector Ricardo Ramirez eased himself onto the curb beside her. “Your grandmother,” Mama Loa said, in her soft Creole accent, “she come to see me last night. She say the gods don’t like that you gave back your gift.”

Although Ramirez’s long-deceased slave grandmother was Yoruba, and Mama Loa was Vodun, both adhered to Santería, a mix of Catholicism and African animism. They both believed the dead were everywhere, and that they visited their dreams.

“Have you found a new home yet?” Ramirez asked the old woman uneasily, changing the subject. The last time he’d seen Mama Loa, he had given her a thick braid of gold chain, one of the many seized items that never quite found their way into the police exhibit room. The chain was valuable enough on the black market to pay for at least a few months’ accommodation for the old woman and her strays.

“Not yet,” Mama Loa said, shaking her head. Her long grey dreadlocks bounced on her shoulders. “The government still looking for a place for us, I guess. I got a new goddaughter waiting to move in with me. But Nevara say she don’t want to wait no more. She say some Russian’s going to pay her to go to work for him instead.”

Her goddaughters, Mama Loa called them. Prostitutes. Jineteras who had no safe place to live when they wanted to get off the streets. They found a sort of refuge with her, or at least they had, until the apartment building she’d lived in was declared too dangerous for habitation, which in Havana was saying something.

A bureaucratically displaced person like Mama Loa had few options. She’d ended up living in a shack made from scavenged wood in a shanty town on the outskirts of the city. The Isle of Dust, locals called it. That’s about all that was left of their hopes once they landed there, thought Ramirez—ashes and dust.

“Believe me, I appreciate everything you done for us.” Mama Loa glanced at him sideways. The whites of her eyes were bright against her ebony skin. “I know you think I’m crazy. But I always speak the truth.”

Ramirez tried not to smile at her unabashed honesty. “I’ve never doubted that for a moment, Mama Loa.”

“It’s not your fault you don’t know the way. Your grandmother, she say she warned you to never make the gods angry.”

“I’m sorry to hear you had such frightening dreams.” Ramirez shifted from one foot to the other. How could she possibly know about his grandmother’s warning, or what he’d done to rid himself of his visions? Had Mama Loa followed him to the beach that afternoon in March, watched him scrape a shallow hole in the hot sand?

He’d burned heaven money he’d purchased at a Chinatown kiosk—paper bills in ridiculously high denominations. The vendor had laughed and called it hell money. The irony hadn’t escaped him—that he’d found himself pleading with ancient gods to convince ghosts he wasn’t sure existed either, to leave him alone so his life could return to normal. But afterwards, the spirits that haunted him had vanished. Had they ever been real?

Ramirez’s beloved grandmother had died when he was ten. On her deathbed, she’d warned that he would see ghosts, his gift as the eldest son. But his mother quickly disavowed him of that notion: his grandmother had been sick. She had dementia; she didn’t always know what she was saying.

Eventually, as time passed without him seeing any ghosts, young Ricky reluctantly came to accept that his grandmother had made it up. After all, she’d also told him fanciful stories of lost pirate ships and giant squid, of huge octopuses that waged deadly underwater battles by gripping poisonous blue jellyfish in their tentacles as weapons.

But then he joined the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, or PNR, and, as soon as he was promoted to homicides, the murder victims of his unsolved files began to haunt him. He’d begged the gods to take them away, that hot day in March, and now the ghosts were gone. Ramirez had since managed to persuade himself that the apparitions were simply hallucinations, products of stress, too much work, too little sleep.

As for how the ghosts so often knew things that Ramirez himself didn’t know, his friend Hector Apiro once described how the human brain could retain information without being aware of it. “A German suffers a head injury one night and wakes up speaking Welsh,” Apiro had chortled, bobbing his large head, “a language he claims he’s never heard before, and an excruciatingly difficult one at that. And yet he must have encountered it somewhere, because suddenly he’s fluent. The brain is a complex repository, Ricardo—the biggest library in the world.”

That’s all the ghosts were, Ramirez decided. Buried memories. Subconscious tricks. People he’d encountered somewhere and forgotten. Nothing to do with an absurd, superstitious prayer to the orishas on a stifling hot day or a dying woman’s vivid imagination.

Suddenly embarrassed, he glanced at his watch and stood up. The light fabric of his pants clung to his legs. He tried to straighten the creases.

“You’ll have to excuse me, Mama Loa. My wife and I have plans to go to a movie this afternoon. She’ll be annoyed if I’m late. And trust me, even the gods don’t want to see Francesca angry.” He smiled, but Mama Loa’s face remained stern.

“I know you don’t believe me yet,” she said, “but you will.” She pointed a long, nicotine-stained finger towards the heavens. A jetliner was passing high overhead; it left a brushstroke of white against the intense blue sky. “The sky gods aren’t happy with you. Those people up there who fly in the clouds? Some of them are going to die.”

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The Pink Umbrella

The Pink Umbrella


Perfect for fans of Amélie, this is a charming story about the power of friendship, love and pink polka dots to turn rainy days into sunny ones and sadness into joy.

When it's bright outside, Adele is the heart of her community, greeting everyone who comes into her café with arms wide open. But when it rains, she can't help but stay at home inside, under the covers. Because Adele takes such good care of her friends and customers, one of them decides to take care of her too, and piece by piece l …

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