How do young children understand Covid-19 and the transformation it has had on their world?
The changes that happened to everyday life starting in spring 2020 are chronicled in Outside, Inside, a book that grew out of Caldecott Honoree (Bear Came Along) LeUyen Pham's "way of coping with events as they unfolded." Using simple language and detail-filled digital illustrations, Pham builds scenes with which young readers will be familiar: "Something strange happened on an unremarkable day just before the season changed./ Everybody who was OUTSIDE.../ ...went INSIDE." A young girl with warm brown skin (the child of a multiracial family) and her expressive black cat act as the reader surrogate, appearing throughout the book, even as the author/illustrator widens her scope to the whole world--"Everyone. Everywhere. All over the WORLD./ Everyone just went inside, shut their doors, and WAITED."
Outside, Inside, finished in June, contains a sense of hope, although, of course, the virus continues after its publication. The virus is never named, but children and the adults with whom they share this book can use it as springboard to discuss their own experiences--while Covid-19 eventually will leave the central place it plays in contemporary life, young children will remember the disruptions for years. Pham's excellent illustrations (including artistic interpretations of actual moments from the pandemic, such as the picture of a man thanking emergency workers for saving his wife's life) are the heart of this book. Children will likely enjoy following the black cat as it interacts with people both outside and inside, and find comfort in seeing a scary time represented in such a gentle manner. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer