Helms does an excellent job combining strange and colorful art, the concepts of opposites, and a tale of a friendship...

Outside, Inside

Outside, Inside by Cindy Helms

Seussian shapes and creatures dominate this clever concept book about opposites—and friendship—by debut author/illustrator Helms. Flowers grow all over a strangely shaped metal construction; the word "outside," sided with the same type of metal collage, shows on the opposite page. The flowers remain, but the metal is gone on the next two page spread: instead of the exterior, readers see the dark interior of the building, populated by eyes of all different sizes. The word "inside," as black as the lightless inside of the building, is juxtaposed on the next page. Bird, a strange looking, multi-shaped creature with a carrot-shaped beak, can't find any of this friends, and his thoughts wondering where everyone has gone are posed in bold-colored, bright letters. He can't find them outside, but maybe if he knocks on the door… After a few pages of monstrous mutters, hurrying to finish last details (the reader presumes), the lights go on inside the building, and Bird is treated to a surprise from his friends. The creatures inside are birdlike, reptilian, or alien by turn, and are drawn in pinks, purples, greens, and golds, with springs for limbs and protruding eyes. The party makes Bird's heart grow several sizes with happiness. The text, comprised of only thirty-five words, is as much a part of the imagery as the illustrations themselves. Word balloons help reveal what Bird and the other characters are thinking, and the letters are sometimes squeezed to show the hushed volume of the creatures' voices. Most of the uses of inside/outside are truly opposites; there's only one more metaphorical use ("inside…. inside"), where Bird's heart expands and floats beyond his body (connected with a spring-like cord), that may perplex young readers. Otherwise, all the words are simple enough that very beginning readers will be able to sound them out, and may have a victory of reading a book all on their own. The weird creatures are child-friendly, and the colorful pictures are sure to appeal.

Helms does an excellent job combining strange and colorful art, the concepts of opposites, and a tale of a friendship surprise.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9963397-0-4

Page Count: 33

Publisher: Set Free Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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