The Umbrella House cover

By Colleen Nelson

The Umbrella House

In this intimate and inspiring novel about the power of art and the value of community, award-winning author and former New Yorker Colleen Nelson brings life and liveliness to an eccentric cast of New York City neighbors.

Middle-schooler and New Yorker Roxy Markowski wants to tell the truth fearlessly and powerfully, just like her idols at Veracity News. She and her best friend Scout already make YouTube videos together about East Village life, so when Veracity News announces a Young Voices video competition, Roxy knows it’s the perfect opportunity to make a name for herself, if only she can find a story worth telling. When a real-estate mogul threatens to buy her historic East Village apartment building, Umbrella House, Roxy sets out to create a video about the people who live in her building, depicting their love for art, community, and family.

With time—and her options for saving Umbrella House—running out, Roxy finds herself caught up in the mystery of the Midnight Muralist, a famous East Village artist whose murals once made buildings famous and valuable. Could finding this enigmatic artist be the key to saving her historic East Village apartment building?

Available In


Ages 8-12
ISBN: 978-1-77278-279-0
List Price: $23.95 CAD / $18.95 USD
Trim Size: 5.50 x 8.00 inches / 13.97 x 20.32cm
Pages: 224

Publication date: June 6, 2023

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 1

Paperback / softback

Ages 8-12
ISBN: 978-1-77278-306-3
List Price: $16.95 CAD / $13.95 USD
Paperback / softback
Trim Size: 5.50 x 8.00 inches / 13.97 x 20.32cm
Pages: 224

Publication date: February 6, 2024

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 40

About this book


Praise for The Umbrella House

2023 Junior Library Guild Selection

2024 Forest of Reading – Silver Birch Nominee 

2023 Indigo Top 50 Best Kids’ Books of the Year Selection 

2024 Bank Street College of Education “Best Children’s Books of the Year” Selection 

2024 SYRCA Diamond Willow Award Finalist

Ontario Library Association’s 2023 Best Bets Selection 

2023 School Library Journal “These Protagonists Take Action | Read Woke” Feature

49th Shelf “Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2023 Books for Young Readers Preview” Feature

The Children’s Book Council “Hot Off the Press: June 2023” Feature

“Blending fact, fiction, social issues, and friendship, this novel ably highlights young people’s strengths….An uplifting account of creative kids working to preserve a city landmark.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Nelson, who has lived in New York, creates a cast of interesting characters with Umbrella House (a real place with a colorful history) and its neighborhood as the setting. A well-paced story with a satisfying conclusion.”—Booklist

“Nelson’s novel both commends activists’ can-do spirit and emphasizes the heights to which one can go when backed by unwavering communal support.”—Publishers Weekly

“A contemporary story based on the real-life Umbrella House in New York City, Nelson offers readers a strongly written and beautifully heartening novel, rich with a wide cast of appealing characters.”—Quill & Quire

“[A] dynamic story of tenacity–a fight for justice and compassion around housing and the politics of who deserves to be housed. Colleen manages to create some mystery and angst, which all contribute to the fast-paced, plot-driven narrative….This book should not be missed.”—Youth Services Book Review

“[A] fast paced read that is both enjoyable and encouraging. With a little mystery, a lot of love, some endearing characters, a portrait of a traditional part of New York and a triumph of community over greed The Umbrella House will appeal to children aged 8-12. Highly Recommended”Canadian Materials

The Umbrella House will be a good choice for readers who enjoyed Dilloway’s Five Things About Ava Andrews, Giles’ Take Back the Block, Watson’s This Side of Home, or Broaddus’ Unfadeable.”—YA Books Central

“[A] wonderful new novel for middle graders to sink their teeth into. I really enjoyed reading this engaging story….An enjoyable read that is well written.”—The International Educator

“This book discusses the topic of gentrification from a child’s perspective….Readers will enjoy reading about Roxy and Scout and their friendship as they navigate ups and downs in their relationship….The book would also pair well with learning about the history of New York City and the variety of different neighborhoods in the city.”—CLCD – Children’s Literature

“I loved the sounds of East Village: it seemed like a real neighbourhood where people look out for each and where shop local is a real thing. The characters were electric, their stories unique and there were lots of things going on.”—Book Time

“An ode to community activism and the East Village in New York City…It is a beautiful story that will engage readers and leave them yearning for a trip to NYC to see the Umbrella House for themselves. Also, a huge shout out to the incredible Peggy Collins for her BEAUTIFUL cover illustrations. The book simply pops.”—Storytime With Stephanie

The Umbrella House is a fun and empowering story!”Jill’s Book Blog

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