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Inside Out
by Wendy Stofan Halley, illustrated by Roberta Collier-Morales
ages 4-8 32 pages Illumination Arts April 2003 Hardcover    

From an early age, children are bombarded with images, made aware of how others look, how they look to others. It is easy to get sidetracked by appearances, but Wendy Stollan Halley addresses this issue with her young protagonist, Carly, a happy little girl with an imaginary friend, Natasha

Carly has wonderful adventures with Natasha, jumping on clouds and walking on the moon. While they are enjoying a tea party one afternoon, Carly asks Natasha why no one can see her. Is she a ghost? Natasha replies that she is not a ghost but a spirit "like an angel without wings." Natasha's hopes the little girl will always remember her message: "Your spirit is the most important part of you. It's who you really are."

Natasha explains that Carly's spirit came to earth to become a human being. She opines that Carly has "a beautiful, shining spirit made of love and light." Inspired, Carly determines to always cherish her spirit. But she forgets Natasha's message after a while, turning away from new friends, spending time alone, reading and making up stories, until "all the magic that had once filled her life was gone." With another visit, Natasha shows the girl a trick for remembering her spirit and Carly's life is magical once more.

This concept story is especially appropriate for a particular age group of girls, when a strong self-image is critical. The text helps a child's create an inner dialog, addressing the spirit in everyday life. The illustrations by Roberta Collier-Morales, complement the story, everything bursting with movement: swirling clouds, a brilliant sun, pages of rainbows. Carly is an illustrator's dream, her joyful face, rioting curly hair and bright clothing.

The momentum in the art brings the story alive, animating Carly's struggle to remain in touch with her spirit. The images are stunning, deserving of many readings and thoughtful discussions. Inside Out is a joyful experience, one to be savored by young readers and their mothers.

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