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Outside In: 06/27/20

Outside In

Outside In by Deborah Underwood is a picture book about how we have separated ourselves from nature, the outside, and how nature continues to work its way into our lives. The protagonist is an unnamed child, shown being driven across the countryside to their home, and then their time spent inside as nature continues to beckon through windows and other means.

Through text and the watercolor illustrations by Cindy Derby show the interplay of human structures, machines, and nature, plants and animals. As nature begins to charm its way into the child's life, the illustrations begin to fill the page, the plants dominating and the colors becoming more saturated.

This narrative, like Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant and K.G. Campbell (2017) and A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano (2018), sits in the orphan traveling home via the cornfield (FF66FF) spot on the road narrative spectrum.

Yes, a parent is shown in some scenes with the child, but the book is about nature's interaction with the child. Thus they are an orphan traveler. It is their decision to welcome nature into the home, to travel into nature.

As the child's interaction with nature is framed against the home, home is the destination. Where ever the child goes, home will be the place they return to. On a micro-scale, the child/home dynamic is the same as the marginalized traveler/rural town, where the goal is to escape the rural town.

The route is the cornfield. Or rather, the cornfield is the catch all for the plants of various times shown enticing the child out of their home. There is also the snail on the kale as a reminder of the farm, that demarkation between mankind and nature.

Five stars

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