About the Holiday
You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both September and December have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! It’s also never too early to think about adding books to those upcoming holiday gift lists!
By Jakkie Licare
Written by Deborah Underwood | Illustrated by Cindy Derby
“Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us. There was nothing between us,” the narrator reminds readers.Once we walked through a forest to get somewhere else, but now? A little girl sits strapped into her family’s car as they quickly pass through the forest. She’s concentrating on the toy in her lap, too busy to enjoy the outdoors through the window. She and her mother move directly from the car to the house, unaware of the vibrant colors and wildlife close by.
Luckily, nature sends her lots of reminders. As she ties her shoe, a hummingbird hovers at the glass doors. If she’d turn from her homework, she’d see the beauty of the outdoors through her window or maybe catch a peek of the caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly. Nature also sends shadows to sneak along her walls and floors, begging for her to come out and play. Birds call out to her with their songs, while flowers perfume the air enticing her to come out.
“Outside feeds us,” the narrator says. “Sun, rain, and seeds become warm bread and berries.” She wears what was “…once puffs of cotton” to keep warm and sits in a chair that was “once trees.” Even her pet’s fur and warmth remind her of the importance of the outdoors. The outdoors keeps time for her, reminding her when to sleep and when to wake up.
The outdoors sneaks inside her house as small bugs seek refuge and food and remind the girl to enjoy the outdoors. Even rivers rush into the house through pipes and return to their deep depths. When she considers going leaving her house, Outside holds its breath and celebrates as she joins in.
The end pages are filled with beautiful wispy images of trees and birds in green paint.
Deborah Underwood’s evocative story reminds readers that nature is always calling us to come out and play, to appreciate and relish its marvels. The idea that the sun’s shadows, birds’ calls, and even intrusive bugs are all nature’s sneaky way of trying to grab our attention is unique. Underwood’s gentle tone and lyrical writing allow the reader to contemplate their own interactions with nature and her invitation. Thoughtful and emotionally resonant, Outside In is a beautiful story of how nature wishes to be a child’s favorite playmate.
Cindy Derby brings the outdoors inside this book with her use of thread soaked in ink, watercolors, and powder graphite. Derby plays with perspective, giving children a new view of how they fit into the world. In the beginning of the book, from a bird’s eye perspective, we see a small car driving through an immense forest. Then on the next page, we are inside the car and can only see a tiny bit of the forest through the car’s window, but even this glimpse goes unnoticed by the young passenger. The girl’s home, it seems, is made almost entirely of glass, and yet, as readers see, the girl and her mother are nearly always shown with their heads down, preoccupied with homework, the computer, baking, and just hanging out—bored.
In Derby’s lush, sun-dappled illustrations, children can also see the wild and vibrant trees, animals, birds, and insects that all keep vigil, willing and waiting for the little girl to come out. In contrast to these exquisite images, Derby paints the car and surrounding houses in dull washed-out tones; the mother too is portrayed in gray while the girl wears a bright red sweater. When the girl does finally notice the view from her window, readers will be enveloped in the same sense of freedom and wonder as the little girl as she steps outside with her head held high and her eyes on the fiery sunset that mirrors the colors in her sweater.
A stirring celebration of the wonders of nature and an exhilarating reminder of the joys that being outside brings, Outside In is a must-have for all bookshelves.
Ages 4 – 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1328866820
Discover more about Deborah Underwood and her books on her website.
To learn more about Cindy Derby, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Read a New Book Month Activity
Nature Hike Scavenger Hike
Take a nature hike and collect the items on this printable sheet. When you get home, use the item to
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