Title: Outside, Inside
Author/Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Published By: Roaring Brook Press, 2021
The past few years have been a bit of a weird timeline, non? When I look back on pictures of 2019 (especially those from Christmas), I keep thinking to myself, “You fool! Just wait a few months and things are going to be so, so different.” In fact, right before we went into our first lockdown here in Ontario, Lily and I took the subway downtown to SickKids for a check up (shout out to the celiac experts at SickKids!). We were ON the SUBWAY. With NO masks. Right before the pandemic was officially a THING.
The mind boggles, looking back.
When we first found out that the kids would be coming home from school indefinitely, it was…odd. I naively made a list of places that we could visit, now that school wasn’t happening. Except that all of those places were closed too. And all those people we love so much? Yup, couldn’t see them in person either. We didn’t even see my parents for Easter that year. (We made cardboard cutouts and sat with them at the table. It’s both sad and funny, looking back).
We were scared. Everyone was scared. And lonely.
After several weeks, I snuck downtown to see my bestie. I missed him terribly, and he had somehow sourced a box of yeast I needed to bake bread for Lily (our grocery store was totally devoid of yeast and flour for quite some time). We walked around a totally barren, empty downtown Toronto. We didn’t hug hello or goodbye, and we did our entire visit outside. I took a picture of Jay at Dundas Square, completely deserted, with large billboard ads telling people to be careful and stay home. It was…really weird.
We didn’t see our family or friends for months. We missed everyone so much, and Zoom calls weren’t the same.
All that said, I kept telling Karl, “I know we’re lucky. I know it could be so much worse. People have it so much worse.” So we were also grateful. Grateful, lucky, sad, lonely, hopeless, hopeful, brave, weak, tired and frustrated.
When I read LeUyen Pham’s Outside, Inside, all those feelings came rushing back. She captured the fear, the hope, the strange separateness that the pandemic brought perfectly. This book is a must-have and must-read. I’m going to do my rating right now: five stars, no question.
But, full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Ms. Pham’s and have been for a looong time. Both of my girls have been massively into the Princess in Black series as they’ve grown up. Vivi adores the Real Friends/Best Friends/Friends Forever books that LeUyen Pham created with Shannon Hale.
But this book? This is something extra-special. It’s like a time capsule. It’s something that adults and kids alike can relate to. It’s beautiful, both in its sparse but poetic text and gorgeous artwork. Each page is so fabulously detailed. The hospital spread is so heartbreakingly accurate.
And the end? It totally made me cry. It’s a good reminder that although COVID isn’t over, there’s still hope. There’s a future. There are things to look forward to and we won’t be in this situation forever.
So if you’re looking for a wonderful, excellent, fabulous picture book that will maybe help you to process some of those hard feelings about the pandemic, this is the one. This book truly is perfect.