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.