We are very excited to launch our July – September 2021 reading theme:
Binge-Read: Book Series Marathon
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:
- Books that are part of an ongoing series
- Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
- Short story collections
- Narratives of a similar genre
- 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.
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.
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.
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