Outdoors is part of people all the time, even when they’re indoors.
“Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us,” opens the text. The premise that nowadays humans sometimes forget about Outside is belied so thoroughly and passionately by the illustrations that it barely registers—which works just fine in this love letter to nature. From opening spread to closing, nature is all-encompassing. Derby uses watercolors, powdered graphite, and thread or flower stems soaked in ink to paint full-bleed scenes bursting with dampness and leaves, branches and sticks, and qualities of light so various that they evoke different seasons and different weathers all at once. Outdoors, watery paint describes hanging branches or rain; leaves look liquid; large orange patches are treetops but evoke flower petals. Indoors, sunlight beams through glass panes to set a watery, purple-black hallway quietly aglow. Bits of dense color saturation and keen, crisp, sometimes prickly edges pierce, delineate, and offset the bountiful, wet, organic swaths. Outside “sings to us with chirps and rustles and tap-taps on the roof”; it “beckons with smells: sunbaked, fresh, and mysterious”; we feel it “in the warm weight of our cats and the rough fur of our dogs.” The child character embraced by Outside (when both outdoors and in) has peach skin and long, straight, dark hair.
Lushness without sweetness—wild, darkly romantic, and exquisite. (Picture book. 3-9)