by Deborah Underwood
Kirkus Outdoors is part of people all the time, even when they're indoors."Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us," opens the text. The premise that nowadays humans sometimes forget about Outside is belied so thoroughly and passionately by the illustrations that it barely registerswhich works just fine in this love letter to nature. From opening spread to closing, nature is all-encompassing. Derby uses watercolors, powdered graphite, and thread or flower stems soaked in ink to paint full-bleed scenes bursting with dampness and leaves, branches and sticks, and qualities of light so various that they evoke different seasons and different weathers all at once. Outdoors, watery paint describes hanging branches or rain; leaves look liquid; large orange patches are treetops but evoke flower petals. Indoors, sunlight beams through glass panes to set a watery, purple-black hallway quietly aglow. Bits of dense color saturation and keen, crisp, sometimes prickly edges pierce, delineate, and offset the bountiful, wet, organic swaths. Outside "sings to us with chirps and rustles and tap-taps on the roof"; it "beckons with smells: sunbaked, fresh, and mysterious"; we feel it "in the warm weight of our cats and the rough fur of our dogs." The child character embraced by Outside (when both outdoors and in) has peach skin and long, straight, dark hair.Lushness without sweetnesswild, darkly romantic, and exquisite. (Picture book. 3-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly “Once/ we were part of Outside/ and Outside was part of us/ There was nothing between us,” begins Underwood (Ducks!) in plainspoken lines. “Now/ sometimes even when/ we’re outside.../ we’re inside.” Derby (How to Walk an Ant) portrays this tension in a gentle series of illustrations that mix gauzy, muted tones and textures with punctuations of color. The pictures follow a small child and family, visualizing moments, indoors and out, when “outside reminds us” of its abiding presence. Inside, “flashes at the window” illuminate a hallway, a window-side transformation exemplifies nature’s “slow magic tricks,” a tiny snail sneaks in on a bunch of kale, and rooftop serenades include “chirps/ and rustles/ and tap-taps on the roof.” Even when the girl sits (“in wooden chairs,/ once trees”) or stands at the bathroom sink (“rivers come inside”), the outdoors communicates its presence, requesting attention. In the final pages, the child and a cat step outside into a feathery, vibrant landscape—a moving reminder that nature’s beckoning need not go unrequited. Ages 4–7. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Apr.)
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Book list Lovely, expressionistic art and poetic prose invite readers to contemplate nature’s mystique and its role in everyday life, which is often taken for granted or goes unnoticed. The opening scenes set the pensive tone—“Sometimes even when we’re outside . . . / we’re inside. / We forget Outside is there”—while Derby’s illustrations show a road surrounded by trees, followed by a girl in close-up, inside a car. In her home, the girl’s experiences highlight how Outside makes itself known, such as when birds are silhouetted against a window, or is interwoven into daily indoor life, from the food we eat to what we wear (“Outside cuddles us / in clothes, / once puffs of cotton”). Ultimately, the girl heads outdoors, drawn to explore what’s there. Through an evocative mix of aqueous washes and richer, more saturated tones, the color-washed, loose-brushed illustrations capture a sense of nature’s intrigue, delights, and influence. While the lyrical text and concepts may be a bit too abstract or esoteric for younger children, the presentation and approach may still inspire reflection about interconnectedness in the natural world.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Horn Book 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. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal K-Gr 3—In this exquisite tale, the wonders of nature are revealed to be all around us if we just take the time to notice and appreciate them. Spare, lyrical text offers a fable-like depth of insight: "Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us. There was nothing between us. Now, sometimes even when we're outside… we're inside." Derby's luminous watercolor illustrations evocatively show this disconnection: A little girl, buckled into a car seat, seems unaware of the scenery passing by her. "Outside" is an ebullient character, and tries to capture the child's attention by singing to her with "chirps and rustles and tap-taps on the roof," and with "slow magic tricks" like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Outside also makes its way inside, as seen in the nourishing berries on the kitchen counter, on the cotton T-shirt the child wears, and as a morning sunlight–streaming natural alarm clock. Ever patient, Outside waits and whispers, "I miss you," until the little girl rediscovers the world outside her window. VERDICT This gorgeous celebration of nature is a stirring invitation to play.—Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont.
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