As I work on my novel for young readers, I thought Carolyn Marsden’s Silk Umbrellas would inspire me. Marsden introduces readers to traditional Thai culture through Noi, a young girl in about 5th grade, and her family. Noi’s grandmother paints silk umbrellas and Noi helps her. The family needs money since the father can’t get gainful employment. Her mother makes mosquito nets and Ting, Noi’s older sister must quit school to contribute to the family’s income.
The writing is very lyrical and romantic. I thought it was a little too dreamy and ideal as I can’t believe that Thai’s are so untouched by modernization and the outside world. Since the umbrellas are sold to foreign tourists, I think I’m right. Noi would be acquainted with things like T shirts, TV and cell phones, even if she learned about them from a friend’s family.
The story is lovely and shows different attitudes towards child labor. Noi pities her sister and hopes to stay in school, while Ting, the sister, is realistic and uncomplaining. She seems to
All in all, I wish there were some images in the book because children would need the visuals to better understand Thailand. The glossary that defines words like Kun Mere (mother) and faring (foreigner) is a help, though I prefer footnotes on the page where each term is used. I’d say Silk Umbrellas is a good book on Thailand, but most certainly shouldn’t be the only book a child reads about the country.