Review of Outside, Inside

Outside, Inside
by LeUyen Pham; illus. by the author
Primary    Roaring Brook    48 pp.    g
1/21    978-1-250-79835-0    $18.99

“Something strange happened on an unremarkable day just before the season changed. Everybody who was OUTSIDE…went INSIDE.” The “something strange” is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, as safety protocols were put into place “all over the world. Everyone just went inside, shut their doors, and waited.” (Except for essential workers, whom Pham acknowledges in the main text and a heartfelt appended note.) The story begins with one family. A little girl and her cat are shown looking out an apartment window. While the child remains inside, the cat travels around the city, and then the world, observing its surroundings and offering comfort and connection to everyone it encounters. The text remains general, never specifically mentioning the cat but instead describing universal experiences, observations, and emotions throughout this difficult time. The variety of people (“nearly every face painted in this book is inspired by a real person,” per the author’s note) and places shown in Pham’s colorful, warm-hearted digital ­illustrations — some spreads juxtapose many vignettes, while others focus on one scene — reinforces her message: “On the outside, we are all different. But on the inside, we are all the same.” The resilience of nature, too, is a repeated theme, with city parks, backyard gardens, and other lush green spaces offering solace and connotations of peace. Pham’s story ends on an optimistic note, with the arrival of spring (and no more masks). We’re not there yet — but here’s hoping we’re on our way.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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