“Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us,” opens Outside In, a lyrical and sensory exploration of the artificial separation between indoors and outdoors from author Deborah Underwood (The Quiet Book) and illustrator Cindy Derby.
A girl sits in the back seat of a car that drives toward a house, and Underwood reminds us that often, even when we are outside, we are still inside. Yet the Outside uses light, insects, noise, weather, enticing smells and much more to nudge us and ask us to step out and explore.
For much of the book, the girl remains indoors, where she experiences how the natural world supports us even while we’re in our houses, providing us with berries to eat, cotton clothes to wear and wooden furniture to sit on. Underwood also points to the ways nature enters our homes, through faucets that run with water from rivers and streams, and through windows that mark our days with the rising and setting sun.
Cindy Derby’s wispy, delicate illustrations toy evocatively with light and shadow. Her atmospheric spreads are never cluttered, leaving lots of open room for young readers to imaginatively inhabit the girl’s world. In a spread about how the Outside “sends the sunset and shadows inside to play,” Derby paints the girl on the verso and her cat on the recto; between them lies abundant space for readers to rest their eyes, and for those enigmatic shadows to dance.
Outside In is a beguiling, thought-provoking book that thinks outside the box.