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Outside, Inside

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

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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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Broccoli: No way is James going to eat broccoli. “It’s disgusting,” says James. Well then, James, says his father, let’s consider the alternatives: some wormy dirt, perhaps, some stinky socks, some pre-chewed gum? James reconsiders the broccoli, but—milk? “Blech,” says James. Right, says his father, who needs strong bones? You’ll be great at hide-and-seek, though not so great at baseball and kickball and even tickling the dog’s belly. James takes a mouthful. So it goes through lumpy oatmeal, mushroom lasagna and slimy eggs, with James’ father parrying his son’s every picky thrust. And it is fun, because the father’s retorts are so outlandish: the lasagna-making troll in the basement who will be sent back to the rat circus, there to endure the rodent’s vicious bites; the uneaten oatmeal that will grow and grow and probably devour the dog that the boy won’t be able to tickle any longer since his bones are so rubbery. Schneider’s watercolors catch the mood of gentle ribbing, the looks of bewilderment and surrender and the deadpanned malarkey. It all makes James’ father’s last urging—“I was just going to say that you might like them if you tried them”—wholly fresh and unexpected advice. (Early reader. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-14956-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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