(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class.)
In Umbrella by Taro Yashima (1958), a little girl, Momo, who is impatient to use her new umbrella and rain boots finally gets to use them on a rainy day, and through this experience, she becomes a little more independent. These parents of the 50s are supportive of the main character, parenting in a gentle but firm way. The mother seems to be the main caregiver and the father looks like he works outside the home in the illustrations, although it is not mentioned explicitly in the text. It is very much a “normal” small nuclear family, but it also happens to feature a Japanese American family before race became much of an issue in children’s books.
I loved the brush paintings in this book and the mini Japanese lessons that are given on each page (like how the kanji for Momo 桃 means “peach” in Japanese). It’s a deceptively simple, sweet story that was a Caldecott Honor Book.
The book was written for the author’s daughter, actress Momo Yashima Brannen of Star Trek fame, and her brother was Mako Iwamatsu, whom I probably knew best as Aku from Samurai Jack. Taro Yashima also wrote and illustrated the book Crow Boy (1955), another Caldecott Honor Book, which I remember reading as a child. Roger Pulvers writes about the family in this piece: Two Generations of Japanese and Japanese American Artists: Activism, Racism and the American Experience.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter U.