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Inside Outside

Inside Outside was published last April; I’m hoping many of you have seen it by now.

In his illuminating interview with its creator, Lizi Boyd, Roger called Inside Outside a “lo-fi busybox of a book: sixteen wordless spreads of a child’s play and projects indoors and out, linked by the passing of the seasons and some simple die-cut windows.”

Inside Outside is wordless—rare but not unprecedented in Caldecott honorees. The child protagonist (and I call him/her that because she/he sure makes things happen, all through the book) invites the reader in on the title page just as one would welcome a visitor into one’s home—standing at the open front door, seemingly happy to have the reader’s company. The rest of the book fulfills that welcome with scenes of contented activity. And as Roger noted, both the die-cuts and the warm wanna-touch kraft paper make this a book very young readers will experience as much with their hands as with their eyes.

One of the things I most appreciate about this book is its lack of flash. The die-cuts don’t exist to wow readers with their cleverness. What they do is help connect every spread with the one after it and the one before it. The child here is never bored, always busy—but the activities and adventures are all on a very small scale. The mood throughout is one of creative productivity but also of enjoyment—the child makes a toy boat inside, then floats in the wading pool outside; builds a snowman outside with his animal friends, and then draws it, inside. Everything is connected here; that’s the point.

I found the compositions of the double-page spreads soothing despite their busy-ness: detailed without being cluttered, with the many squares and rectangles (of the doors, windows, and die-cuts) balanced by the circles of puddles, rugs, turtle, trees, etc. And the palette (as Roger and Ms. Boyd discuss in the interview) changes subtly through the seasons, yet always communicates warmth and cheerfulness.

I continue to be a bit bemused by the opening endpapers, which show a spring scene and include only one mouse, whereas the book begins and ends in winter in a nice bit of circularity, and elsewhere the (fun-to-find) mice always come in twos. Maybe some of you can help me with a justification… or just tell me “endpapers, schmendpapers.”

This is one quiet, homey, domestic, aimed-at-younger-children book. What do you think? Will it stand up to some of the bigger, louder, more elaborate books on the Caldecott committee table?


Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.



  1. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I’d like to move into that house.

  2. Robin Smith says:

    I can’t stop myself from touching these pages. The illustrations on that kraft paper just make me want to feel them…and search for the die cuts with my hands. This is such a happy book–not saccharine–just happy. The child is at the center of everything, clearly beloved and cared for, which I love. The art is not like Vera B. Williams, but the feeling of the book reminds me of her Lucky Song.
    I especially appreciate how the gouache pops off that kraft paper. The blue on the last page is sublime.
    I don’t know how this will stack up against others, but this is one that I hope everyone will see and share with little people.

  3. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    It’s so interesting that you say this child is “cared for” — I totally took this as a (much less outrageous) Pippi Longstocking situation: here was a child running a household with his animal friends (more domestic ones here than Pippi’s horse and monkey!). This child seems very much in charge of her/his world, which I imagine would be quite empowering for young readers.
    Thanks for talking more about the particulars of the gouache colors (yes that blue is gorgeous!) … and I hope to hear more about them from other commenters.

  4. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Yes, you are right about the caring. But, the house is so clearly created by a grown up who creates an atmosphere where the child can take care of her/himself.
    And, if Roger wants to live there, it has to be a great place!

  5. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    But where would I plug everything in???

  6. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    Behind the refrigerator?

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