Earth Day 2020 – Picture Book: Outside In

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The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. 

Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.

I think one of the best ways of helping young children become involved in both this annual celebration and in a daily awareness of their stewardship role is to share earth-affirming books with them.. One of those was released last week by friends of mine. OUTSIDE IN

Title: Outside In

Author: Deborah Underwood

Illustrator: Cindy Derby

 Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2020

Ages: 4-8

Themes: nature, the earth, earth day, outside, indoors, outdoors


Once we were part of Outside and Outside was part of us. There was nothing between us.


Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.

Why I like this book:

Writing this as I am, during week 6 of the 2020 COVID-19 ShelterInPlace, I can’t think of a more poignant and empowering message for our young children. But this is not a messagey/didactic book at all. it shows us that though we may choose to or need to wall ourselves up in our homes and cars, we can never truly block out the outside. It is so comforting to know that outside will find a beautiful way in. Always. I need to hear this.

Powerful poetic language reveals the healing intimacy and beauty that Outside wants to share with us. “Outside steals inside: a spider seeking shelter, a boxelder bug in the bath, a tiny snail on kale.” There are layers for adults and layers for children in this book of wonder, and both will want to play with Outside by the end.

Cindy Derby’s illustrations elevate all the senses for me and the wash draws me into the mood of the text. Don’t miss the recurring snail folks! I feel like author and illustrator really outdid themselves with this book. And it is the perfect piece of art to sustain me inside as I hold onto all those past and future playdates with Outside.


Every child will be able to share a bit of Outside.

The American Museum of Natural History has a tone of online activities for the family for Earth Day 2020.

Maybe do some bird watching or build a bird house/feeder.

Craft a nature collage from things gathered on a socially-distancing walk.

Educators at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center have gathered resources for parents looking to share the experience of Earth Day with their children.

Understanding the Urban Watershed Curriculum Guide with Activity Ideas(Grades K-8) is a compilation of lessons and activities with chapters that explore water, water systems, and watersheds with vocabulary, activity ideas, discussion questions, and suggested reading.

For more ideas, check out this list of Nifty Fifty environmental activities for kids, as well as nature-themed resources for kids of all ages, called Greener Together.

Chat with your kids about some of the really positive repercussions for the earth of us sheltering in place.

This entry was posted in Book Promotion, children's books, Children's literature, Earth Day, Perfect Picture Book Friday, Picture Books and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Earth Day 2020 – Picture Book: Outside In

  1. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    I am ssoooooo itching to get my hands on this book. I’d pre-ordered through a local bookstore to get a signed copy, and now it’s in bookstore limbo. I may have to order another unsigned copy….I LOVE this book!

    • Joanna says:

      Each time Deborah Underwood writes a new book it becomes a favorite with me. Her range is jaw-dropping. And I think Cindy Derby is one to watch for awards!

  2. Snyder, Gabi says:

    My copy of this book just arrived yesterday from my local bookstore and I love it so much. I’ve long been a fan of Deborah Underwood, and now I’m a fan of Cindy Derby as well. The watercolor illustrations are dreamy and moody and fit the text beautifully.

  3. Joanna, I am so looking forward to reading this book. It’s on my TBR pile. The cover was so enticing when it was announced and I love Deborah’s books. What a great book for these times. Thanks for highlighting it.

  4. Can’t wait to read Underwood’s book. Such a beautiful celebration of nature. I love her work and the illustrations look amazing!

  5. I hope everyone takes note of how limited human activity has helped the planet, atmosphere, and animals.

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