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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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

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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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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