Outside, Inside, illustrated and written by LeUyen Pham, published by Roaring Brook, ISBN: 978-1250798350.
I love hearing illustrators and authors talking about their work. Lately, thanks to many virtual webinars and conferences, I have enjoyed listening to insightful and thought-provoking conversations with picture book creators who reveal the inspirations they had for their latest wonders. Extra points given if a cat or a dog appears trying to sabotage the talk. A playful feline popped up in the middle of Caldecott Honor winner (Bear Came Along) LeUyen Pham’s recent recorded interview shown during a virtual conference. And it was the perfect moment because she had just mentioned the black cat that appears throughout her latest effort, the poignant and remarkably honest Outside, Inside.
Outside, Inside talks about life during a global pandemic, but does so in a way young children will understand, and with dignity and grace. Her language is direct, pared down, observational (“Something strange happened on an unremarkable day just before the season changed./Everybody who was outside…/went inside”). The narrator sounds perplexed perhaps, but we readers, even the youngest of us, understand exactly what is going on. We have been living this. With delicate economy, Pham touches on many aspects of this crisis (exhausted health workers in hospitals, scenes of people elearning or playing games or concerned about their money situation while staying inside, masked people social distancing outside). She brings a much-appreciated global view to the title. She intersperses panoramic double spreads throughout the book.
All the while the aforementioned cat wanders from page to page. Pham explained in her emotional interview that the cat is there because it’s the one character who can freely take readers outside and inside and back again. I’m probably making this book sound heavy. Pham does not shy away from what has made the last several months rough. But she fills her warm, muted illustrations with empathy and humanity and in the last moments, hope. She reminds us that we all have the same beating heart inside. We are connected. And a new season will begin.
We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by Michaela Goade, written by Carole Lindstrom, published by Roaring Brook, ISBN: 978-1250203557.
This past Monday the Youth Media Awards were announced, and so many of my favorites received some love. See the Cat, ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat!, The Cat Man of Aleppo, Me & Mama, Honeybee, A Place Inside of Me, Danbi Leads the School Parade, Welcoming Elijah…so many others.
I have to give a special shout out to the Caldecott Winner We Are Water Protectors. Illustrator Michaela Goade made Caldecott history by being the first Native woman to win this top medal. I fell in love with the book the first moment I saw it. Carole Lindstrom’s text is exceptional, and Goade takes the visual cues from the words and soars with them. Here is what I wrote back in July of 2020:
“When trying to think of how to describe Goade’s illustrations, I feel I’m not going to do her work justice. These multi-layered, constantly intriguing colorful images flow like water across the page. The art conveys the glory of thriving nature, and then brings a real disturbing edge to the moments depicting the harmful effects of pollution. The girl’s expressions and body language haunt the memory, as she looks directly at the reader on one spread and faces down evil on another. Evil comes in the form of a strikingly rendered Black Snake, an imposing symbol of the pipeline threatening the water and therefore our very well-being. Truly transcendent is a cosmic moment that takes out into space with a view of our beautiful and yet fragile Earth.”