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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Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.


A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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