Silk Umbrellasby Carolyn Marsden
Eleven-year-old Noi is learning to paint like her grandmother. She and her older sister, Ting, spend many rapt hours in the jungle watching as Kun Ya paints delicate silk umbrellas to sell at the market. But one day Kun Ma and Kun Pa announce that Ting must start working at a local radio factory to help support the family. As the days and weeks pass, Noi anxiously sees her own fate reflected in her sister’s constricting world. Can Noi find a way to master her fear of failure and stand up for her gift — and Kun Ya’s tradition — before the future masters her?
Read an Excerpt
On the third day, Noi took an umbrella of a soft brown color. She closed her eyes and listened for the scene as Kun Ya had taught her. She saw Kun Ya holding a stick of sugar cane out to an elephant. The elephant reached with its trunk.
Oh, but an elephant! How could the umbrella have asked her to paint something so difficult!
Slowly, Noi mixed different shades of gray in the bowls. The vision of the elephant had come to her, but she was afraid of spoiling the umbrella.
She closed her eyes again and looked inside until she could see the elephant in the jungle, could hear its thick feet in the long grass, the small snorts it made with its trunk.
Noi painted, forgetting about being afraid, keeping the image of the elephant steady within her.
When Kun Ya woke up, Noi showed her the brown umbrella, twirling it slowly in the gloom of the rainy afternoon. Kun Ya reached out, her hand hovering over the elephant, never touching the silk, but tracing the shapes that Noi had painted. "Someday soon, Noi, you'll be selling these umbrellas."
Noi's heart beat faster, as though it would strike its way out of her chest. She couldn't speak a word.
Meet the Author
Carolyn Marsden’s debut for young readers, THE GOLD-THREADED DRESS, received enormous critical acclaim and was named a BOOKLIST Top Ten Youth First Novel. Of SILK UMBRELLAS, she says, "This story was the first I ever wrote for children. It was inspired by time spent in northern Thailand with a woman who worked to protect the jungle and young factory workers." Carolyn Marsden has an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College.
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I just graduated high school, but I remember details from reading this back in elementary school. A beautiful, memorable book that exposed me to the life and world of a little girl like me growing up in a far different place.