Sam Usher

The Umbrella Mouse


It’s 1944 and London is under attack. At James Smith and Sons Umbrella Shop, little Pip Hanway lives happily with her mother and father in an antique umbrella until her world is destroyed by a bomb. Orphaned, Pip decides she must find her way to the umbrella museum in Gignese, Italy where she has some family.

Befriended by Dickin, a search and rescue dog, Pip learns she must join the animals of Noah’s Ark, a secret organisation of animals working as resistance fighters, if she is to stand a chance of making it to her new home.

A very enjoyable and exciting adventure story, ‘The Umbrella Mouse’ looks at the role of resistance fighters and the constant perils they faced. The story highlights the work done by rescue dogs and carrier pigeons as well as acknowledging the impact war has on pets as well as humans. Anna Fargher cleverly uses the plight of the animals in her story to parallel those experienced by humans.

‘The Umbrella Mouse’ does not shy away from the darker consequences of resistance work, including the imprisonment and torture of those unlucky enough to be captured. The manipulation of the vulnerable- those who have lost everything and are searching for a new ‘family’ - so that they will join an organisation is also shown through the actions of certain characters. Infiltration and betrayal are also explored.

All of this makes it sound like a very dark and difficult story to read; however, this is far from being the case. Pip is an inspirational character, full of courage and the determination to follow her dreams.

‘You just need to find a little courage in your heart to begin something new’

This advice from her mother carries her through many perilous situations. At times, Pip is reckless, brave with the belief of the young that they are indestructible so that at times her actions endanger others, but her heart is true and loyal. Dickin is another fantastic character whose courage and good heart are up- lifting ad heart warming to read about. Hans might just be my favourite for reasons I can’t explain as it will spoil the book for anyone who has not read it yet.

The book is full of rich descriptions and is a compelling and powerful read. The illustrations really add to the story as we see Pip and her intrepid friends pursue their quest across France. The ending is left open for another adventure for this little mouse… and there is an umbrella museum in Gignese- who knew?!

The Umbrella Mouse Anna Fargher, illustrated by Sam Usher

Macmillan ISBN: 978- 1529003970

To be published May 2nd 2019

National Poetry Day 2017

Here at NSTBA HQ we love poetry! And with poetry frequently mentioned in the English programmes of study, there's no excuse for it not to be enjoyed in school!

We had a poetry celebration in school today with each member of my class learning a poem by heart to perform. They loved it- even those who were initially reluctant enjoyed sharing their poem and hearing those others had prepared. Even the adults joined in!

So what better day to remind everyone of the wonderful poetry books which have made their way onto this year's shortlist- each of which could be used in school-or at home- to develop the love of poetry!


The language chosen is rich and varied - and fun!... The poems are set into wonderful illustrations by Sam Usher which capture the vibrant life of London...

 All Aboard The London Bus. Read our review here.


This is a wonderful collection of twenty-six poems about all things space and space related...   Colourful and quirky (Korky Paul's fabulous illustrations), they bring each poem vividly to life! 

A Rocketful of Space Poems. Read our review here.

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This is a collection packed with a wonderful range of poems about some of the amazing women and girls who have helped to shape our world... The three poets responsible for this collection each bring their own voice and style, creating a diverse range of work...

Reaching the Stars. Read our review here.

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This beautiful selection of poems really does include something for everyone... so many things are celebrated between the covers of this book...

A Poem for Every Night of the Year. Read our review here.

The perfect starting point for celebrating National Poetry Day- or any day!

LONGLIST REVIEW: All Aboard the London Bus

What a wonderful way to see all the London sights! Once aboard the bus, there are poems about the changing of the guard, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London many special places! At the back of the book, there are notes about each of the places the bus visits, giving a little bit of history.

'All Aboard the London Bus' contains an wonderful selection of poems in a range of styles. There is a 'Gallery of Haiku' for The British Museum which could inspire children to create their own haiku about objects that they have studied and also encourage them to find out more about each of the objects in the book. The 'Tate Modern' is told in rhyming couplets with a repeated 'That's art!' after each, making it great for reading aloud and performing as well as being an excellent way into discussing what makes art! 

The language chosen is rich and varied - and fun! Each poem offers something different, but they all offer a consistently high standard of writing. With learning poems by heart and performing poems on the curriculum, this book has some gems to choose from!

The poems are set into wonderful illustrations by Sam Usher which capture the vibrant life of London. I love the people scurrying through the rain at Piccadilly Circus (how many times have I done that?!) and the stage at the Globe- another of my favourite places! 

This is a gem of a book! I can't wait to share it with my class.

All Aboard the London Bus by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Sam Usher

Frances Lincoln     ISBN: 978-1847808578