Books for Kids: Outside In

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Outside In
Groundwood Books / House of Anansi
age 8-12
By Sarah Ellis
208 pages

Synopsis from Groundwood Books:

Lynn’s life is full — choir practice, school, shopping for the perfect jeans, and dealing with her free-spirited mother. Then one day her life is saved by a mysterious girl named Blossom, who introduces Lynn to her own world and family — both more bizarre, yet somehow more sane, than Lynn’s own.
Blossom’s family is a small band of outcasts and eccentrics who live secretly in an ingenious bunker beneath a city reservoir. The Underlanders forage and trade for the things they need (“Is it useful or lovely?”), living off the things “Citizens” throw away. Lynn is enchanted and amazed. But when she inadvertently reveals their secret, she is forced to take measure of her own motives and lifestyle, as she figures out what it really means to be a family, and a friend.

Perhaps it’s from recently attending We Day or maybe it’s all the press around wastage but the idea of being more self-reliant and monitoring our fascination with disposable products has been on my mind lately. I think that’s what drew me to Sarah Ellis’ book Outside In. The idea that a young girl, Blossom, lives a seemingly content life in an offline world with her created family is intriguing. Contrast that with thirteen years old Lynn’s world with her single mom, new jeans and the rush of an average teen life.

With a new age-like mom who seems more absorbed in her life and plays lip service to her daughter’s needs, perhaps Lynn was open to finding something or someone new to fill in the holes.

Blossom seems to offer Lynn a side of friendship that is missing from her own family and friends even if she didn’t realize that at the time. Blossom also opens Lynn’s eyes to the world around her, “ the Underlanders”. Just because the rest of the world, the “Citizens”, rush to get bigger and shinier things, accumulating more money for the future, doesn’t mean that is the way of life suited to everyone according to Blossom’s father Fossick (neither her adoptive or biological father).

But no matter how content and free Lynn feels Blossom’s world is, it comes with its own set of stresses. This is obvious when stories of the Outlanders make the news and the family has to pack-up, move, start life all over again, sometimes loosing family members in the process.

Sarah Ellis creates truly believable characters within Outside In, even if the Outlander’s world seems a little like a storybook fantasy. Although I won’t be moving my family to the raven anytime soon, the story did give me pause around what really is important, as far as things, moments, and family. I think youth will find this especially meaningful as they start to grapple with social issues and where they fit in to the world around them.

You can find a copy of Outside In at your local bookstore or at Groundwood Books. Visit our Kid’s Books section for other great book recommendations.

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