Outside, Inside

Roaring Brook. Jan. 2021. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250798350.
PreS-Gr 2–With sympathy and symmetry, Pham recreates the world pre-pandemic in digital illustrations that have the flow and dynamism of watercolors. She imagines a world where people from all walks of life enjoy being outside engaging in many activities until one day when it all comes to a halt—almost everyone goes inside. So begins this enlightening story of how a deadly pandemic forces everyone indoors. Image after vivid image shows people of many races and ethnicities going about their business and then the abruptly empty streets. Wildlife returns to the suburbs. Through the illustrated portrait-like scenes, people are shown in the hospital, facing job loss, death, upending of routines. Pham underscores the lives of essential workers and their dedication. She also touches on the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020, offering educators or parents a path for frank discussion about racial injustice. This hopeful work encourages readers to consider their own, ongoing paths through the pandemic, without ever denigrating or playing down the seriousness.
VERDICT Poetic understatement and somber images capture the new normal in this essential purchase.

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