Rosie's Umbrella

Young Adult - Mystery
362 Pages
Reviewed on 06/05/2017
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Author Biography

Denny Taylor regards art, literature, and science inseparable. She is a lifelong activist and scholar committed to nurturing the imagination and human spirit. She has received both national and international awards for her research and scholarship. She has published sixteen books, is the recipient of the Modern Language of Association of America Mina P. Shaughnessy Award, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In 2004 she was inducted in the International Reading Association's Reading Hall of Fame. She is Professor Emeritus of Literacy Studies at Hofstra University, and the founder of Garn Press.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite

Rosie’s Umbrella written by Denny Taylor is a story of an unspeakable family secret. Rosie Llewelyn and her classmates are given an assignment to research their personal history, concentrating on the origin of their family name. But, what if you don’t have a past? In the Llewelyns Boston home, there were no family photos, no stories shared; nothing seemed to exist before Rosie was born. However, after Aunt Sarah gets trapped in an elevator at work, everything changes. Rosie’s aunt suddenly becomes grief stricken; the trauma of the past engulfs her whole being, changing her radically. For forty years, Rosie’s parents and aunt had kept a secret; they were imprisoned by a gripping silence. When the past and the present collide, Rosie is determined to help her aunt unlock the memories of the past by going on a personal quest to discover her “own truth.”

Rosie’s Umbrella is a spellbinding piece of literature. Profound and exquisitely written, Denny Taylor's exceptional story lures you in. It is a story of heritage, of shame and regret. But more importantly, it is a pursuit of self discovery, healing and reconciliation. The opening quote by Martin Luther King Jr. summarizes the theme of the narrative: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Purposely illusive, the story is told through the confused and delusional voice of the young protagonist. The setting transcends time and location, the old and the new are intricately woven together. Most of the story is told through memories, recollections of thought, not in real time. The conflict is an internal struggle to find oneself, a rift between what is real and what is not. There are so many insightful thoughts described, especially regarding the power of storytelling, my favorite being: “There are always stories within stories.” Using a directive within the text, I encourage you to “read deeply” the story of Rosie’s Umbrella. Maybe you will find a bit of yourself within this unforgettable tale.

Kristen Van Kampen (Teen Reviewer)

Rosie's Umbrella by Denny Taylor is a stunning young adult novel that follows a young girl named Rosie. One day when Rosie gets home from school, she discovers her Aunt Sarah extremely distraught. Her Aunt Sarah's mental state only worsens, to the point where Rosie's parents decide to have her admitted to a hospital. Meanwhile, Rosie has to do a project for school about her family's history. The problem? She didn't know a thing about it. So when she learns that her family is Welsh, she is shocked. Another problem is that her parents seem unwilling to discuss their past. She starts receiving emails from her aunt that help her with her report. But as Rosie discovers more about her past, she learns things that she never would have expected...

I really, really enjoyed reading Rosie's Umbrella by Denny Taylor. The book is very well written and descriptive. It is exciting from cover to cover and included many scenes that made me gasp out loud. I was hooked by the first page, and I did not want to put the book down. The reader will find themselves guessing about Rosie's past. This is a real page turner and will keep the reader on the edge of their seat, wanting to know what will happen next. The book has many likeable characters. It is full of suspense and is a very thrilling read, and also includes many inspiring quotes. I liked that there were many little stories within the main story. I would definitely recommend this to everyone.

Arya Fomonyuy

Denny Taylor’s Rosie's Umbrella is a great read that combines fantasy and mystery to make a delightful read for young adult readers. It’s a story that explores death, loss, and love and how a fourteen-year-old girl’s life is transformed by events that took place many years before her birth. Read on to discover Rosie Llewelyn and her quest for answers as to what happened to her Aunt Sarah and why her parents won’t talk about it. Why was Aunt Sarah in a psychiatric hospital? Set in Wales in 1955 and Boston in 1995, this novel explores family secrets and how the past can catch up with people, affecting the lives of those who come after.

Denny Taylor’s writing is perceptive and absorbing, and Rosie's Umbrella is a story that will rouse readers' emotions. Yes, from the very first page, as the author described the tragic death, I felt a wave of different emotions stirred within me. There is no way the reader’s attention is not captured at this point, but what makes it outstanding is the fact that the reader finds himself reading page after page, unable to stop. I enjoyed the way the protagonist is imagined and executed. A teenager in search of answers, getting help and support from her peers in school and from teachers, driven by the thirst for truth and the need to know. The author masterfully weaves powerful themes into the story, including politics, family secrets, guilt, friendship, and redemption. Rosie's Umbrella is a page-turner, and an emotionally charged story that will wake readers up and make them see the injustices around them. It is as entertaining as it is spellbinding.

Charles Remington

Fourteen-year-old Rosie is grief-stricken when her beloved Aunt Sarah loses her mind and is admitted to a mental institution. She rails against her parents for sectioning her aunt and, in her grief, finds it increasingly difficult to hold on to her own sanity. Rosie’s Umbrella by Denny Taylor weaves a multi-layered tale of how Rosie finds focus and direction when a school project to investigate the history and origins of her family leads her to discover a long-buried family secret, originating in the Welsh coal mines. She learns how the British government mercilessly transported her grandfathers from their Welsh homes to other parts of the world when the local coal mines started to close; how the distraught and penniless families were considered worthless ‘lumpen proletariat’ and encouraged to emigrate. Communicating with her incarcerated aunt by email, she starts to piece together her family history. The little Welsh mining village where her father and aunt spent their summers, and slowly the dark secret which has weighed down her parents and brought her treasured aunt to the brink of insanity start to emerge. Could this distraught young woman have the strength to resolve the awful blight and bring some equilibrium back to her family?

I have to say right away that I found it difficult to empathise with young Rosie - her brattish behaviour seemed at times a little overblown, and I found myself sympathising with her parents who appeared to be under a great deal of strain. That having been said, I found the book deeply thought provoking; the shabby treatment of workers is distressingly common throughout history and is not constrained to coal miners. One need only think of cotton mills and asbestos plants before going further back to the slave labour that built most of Europe. However, I can also recall that British miners became one of the most belligerent work forces in the world, regularly calling strikes and holding the country to ransom by preventing coal going to power stations. I lived through a time when, due to strike action, England had electricity on only three days per week, and the consequent chaos brought about the fall of the incumbent government. I sometimes wonder why we spend so much of our time looking back to past injustices. Authors have documented them since humans developed writing and probably before - the Bible is full of them - but over the millennia the practice doesn’t seem to have done much good. I do not want to give the impression that I did not enjoy Rosie’s Umbrella; Denny Taylor has written an important book and, whether it does any good or not, I sincerely hope that authors of this calibre will continue to produce such sterling work. I urge you to read this excellent book.

Sefina Hawke

Rosie's Umbrella by Denny Taylor is a young adult mystery novel that would appeal most to an audience made up of young adult mystery lovers, though adult mystery lovers may also find the novel thrilling. Rosie Llewelyn is a fourteen-year-old girl living in Boston in 1995, with a mystery to solve. Rosie Llewelyn’s Aunt Sarah was committed to a psychiatric unit inside a nearby hospital for unknown reasons. Rosie makes it her mission to uncover the reason for her aunt’s stay in the psychiatric unit; thankfully young Rosie is not alone as she has the support of her teacher and her friends. Will Rosie uncover secrets and solve the mystery, or will she find her investigation halted prematurely?

The cover of Rosie's Umbrella by Denny Taylor is what first drew my interest to the book; I found the image of an umbrella as the main focus of the cover to be intriguing. I found myself wanting to understand the significance of the umbrella and the reason behind the chosen title. My favorite part of the book was the moment when I understood what the title meant as it was a wonderful “aha” moment that made me feel like I had solved a mystery too. Rosie Llewelyn was easily my favorite character as she was a strong, independent girl capable of making tough choices. I admired the strength of her character and her determination to learn about her Aunt Sarah, even when faced with opposition. Overall, as an adult I enjoyed reading this book, but I imagine that I would have enjoyed it even more as a young adult who could truly empathize with Rosie!

Bobbie Kabuto

Rosie's Umbrella is a timeless piece about coming of age. Rosie's Umbrella is an empowering story of Rosie's journey of self-identity. This is a must-read for every young woman.

Monica Taylor

A magical and inspiring book which reaches adolescents and adults alike. This beautifully written book resonates for many as it reminds us of the importance and life changing endeavor of exploring one's history. It also illustrates how compelling fighting for social justice can be for young people- we all have an inner revolutionary inside of us--- it is just a matter of finding what could inspire it!

Rhodri Ogwen Morgan

Rosie's Umbrella by Denny Taylor truly is a literary feast for the senses. The book follows the mystery and intrigue surrounding a young girl's journey to understanding her family history, heritage and most importantly the social injustices suffered by her ancestors which contributed to her lost identity. The writers enhanced awareness of literary form and style gifts the reader an unique experience akin to walking the path of discovery with the character Rosie Llywelyn. From diary form to flashbacks, memories to dialogues in the present, the tapestry that Denny Taylor masterly weaves arouses intrigue with every turn of the page and the quality of writing is consistent with the rich literary heritage that exists in the very country the character is investigating, Wales. This is a novel that traverses multiple generations, Rosie's umbrella is both a masterful work of fiction solidly anchored in distressing fact where the history of a dispossessed and exploited nation by colonial domination leads to the marginalisation – if not jingoistic ridiculing of both their identity and very existence. Rosie however highlights that such outcome in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr is "neither automatic nor inevitable....Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals".

A highly recommended we say in Welsh, "Diolch am rhodd llenyddol ardderchog" (Thanks for an excellent literary gift).