#SurvivalStories2021 Award-Winning Binge-Read Book Series Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Series Of Outside Inside Themes in Picturebooks

What it is like to be outside, inside.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). 

We are very excited to launch our July – September 2021 reading theme:

Binge-Read: Book Series Marathon

typorama 13

We thought that summer is the perfect time to finally binge-read on book series that we have been positively aching to read for awhile now. However, we recognize that while our good intentions count for a great deal, we may fall short of these expectations. Hence, we are expanding this quarterly theme to include books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. Books that are part of an ongoing series
  2. Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
  3. Short story collections
  4. Narratives of a similar genre 
  5. Stories written by same author

These two picturebooks have similarly-themed titles, although they tackle slightly different storylines. However, I think it makes perfect sense to put them together.


Outside In [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Cindy Derby
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2020)
ISBN: 9781328866820 (ISBN10: 1328866823). Literary Award: Caldecott Medal 2021. Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

This picturebook has won the Caldecott this year, and what joy to finally find the opportunity to read it. 

Screenshot 2021-06-12 at 2.28.19 PM

The first few lines are immensely powerful and can be considered a mentor text in writing. The full-page spread that demonstrates the permeable boundaries between outside and inside and humans’ union with nature imbued with the colors of autumn is like breathing in the rain-soaked grass after a storm.

Screenshot 2021-06-12 at 2.28.40 PM

There is the clever word play on what it means to be outside while inside, or what it means to be inside even while outdoors. The subtlety, the sharp wit, the poetic elements are as subdued as the water-colour-smudgy art that effectively captures the boundaries and intersections of inside/outside.

Screenshot 2021-06-12 at 2.29.18 PM

There is magic in the storytelling here: an alchemical brew between author Deborah Underwood and artist Cindy Derby – producing something astounding and awe-inspiring. I hope they will create even more books in the future. 


Outside Inside [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Published by Roaring Brook Press (2021)
ISBN: 9781250798350 (ISBN10: 1250798353). Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I have read quite a few recently-published story books that clumsily depict the disruption in people’s lives as brought about by the pandemic over the past year. Most leave me with a preachy aftertaste, with didactic messages of staying indoors, washing one’s hands or masking up or how to disinfect one’s surroundings. 

Hence, I was so disarmed and blindsided by this latest picturebook by LeUyen Pham that truthfully documents what it means when “Everyone just went inside, shut their doors, and WAITED.”


I especially appreciated the depiction of varied faces and homes from different parts of the world, the range of emotions felt, and the quiet sense of waiting for something, anything – apart from what one witnesses day in and day out, inside, while looking at the outside.


The little squares in the image above reminded me of how people’s worlds have been reduced to computer screens on zoom or circumscribed by windows or doors linking one to the outside world.


I was especially moved by the Author’s Note that details LeUyen Pham’s creative process during this time and what inspired her to keep sketching moments, scenes, images that caught her eye:

Nearly every face painted in this book is inspired by a real person, from people in the news to family, friends and neighbors. The images inside the hospital are based on real events: a woman giving birth while suffering from the virus; an older woman, isolated from her family, celebrating her birthday with kindly nurses the day before she died; the grateful man showing through the hospital window his love for the nurses who saved his wife’s life. Stories that moved me found their way into my drawings.

Reading this book was a blessing I did not know I needed. More than anything, it is a celebration of people’s conscious and deliberate decision to keep on keeping on, regardless.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 68 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Monday Reading] Series Of Outside Inside Themes in Picturebooks

  1. It will be so interesting to see what history/historical fiction have to say about this time 10+ years from now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Completely Full Bookshelf

    You have convinced me that I need to read both of these picture books! I have a copy of Outside, Inside—Libby didn’t have it, so I actually bought it—and I clearly need to get it read soon, especially since it sounds like it does a better job than many other books of capturing this strange time we are in now. Outside In looks wonderful as well—the illustrations are seriously stunning! (I feel like I say this about virtually every picture book, honestly—but it’s still true!) Thanks so much for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed Outside Inside, glad that you did as well. Disarmed is a good word for it. Outside In is one I will have to try soon, thanks sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: [My 2021 in Books] Favourite PictureBooks Read in 2021 – #Top21of21 – Gathering Books

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