Review of Outside In

Outside In
by Deborah Underwood; illus. by Cindy Derby
Primary    Houghton    40 pp.    g
4/20    978-1-328-86682-0    $17.99

The intersection of outside and inside is creatively explored in this reflection on nature and its gentle persistence and ever-presence. The story begins in nature, as a young girl explores an impressionistic forest. “Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us. There was nothing between us.” After a few page-turns, the girl is riding in a car, with contemplative text observing, “Now sometimes even when we’re outside…we’re inside. We forget Outside is there.” But the outside always makes itself known in subtle and miraculous ways. Airy and translucent jewel-hued watercolors create a luminous canvas for powdered graphite details that delineate how the Outside sneaks In. From the sunlight that “flashes through the window” to the “warm bread and berries” on the kitchen table to the “wooden chairs, once trees,” the natural world organically weaves its way into the girl’s home, creating daily rhythms (“Outside shows us there is a time to rest and a time to start fresh”) and routines (“a spider seeking shelter, a boxelder bug in the bath”). Visible brushstrokes and splashes create texture, reflecting the outside’s raw, sensory, and uninhibited beauty — a beauty that (on the last spread) summons the girl out of her house and into the golden outdoors, reminding readers of the majesty that is always there, waiting just outside.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Emmie Stuart
Emmie Stuart
Emmie Stuart is a school librarian at the Percy Priest Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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