Customer Reviews: Outside Over There (Caldecott Collection)
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VINE VOICEon May 19, 2002
Sendak's work almost always takes a reader by surprise. His themes are not comfortable ones, particularly for parents. He deals with the internal desires of children, the kinds of things that can be interpreted as unacceptable and frightening. For instance, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, which has become a classic in children's literature is about a boy who acts out--who becomes a "wild thing" himself. His transformation back into a boy is a gradual and wonderful part of the picture book, but in no way tries to deny that the "wild thing" aspect exists.
Likewise, OUTSIDE, OVER THERE is a tale of siblings, jealousy and responsibility. The heroine is Ida, a young girl who's father is away and so Ida is left to watch her baby sister, a task she's not too fond of. Ida is much more caught up in her own world. Yet when her sister is kidnapped by goblins, Ida must go off on a magic adventure to rescue her. She's not wholly devoted to the quest at first--and nearly passes her sister right by when she becomes absorbed in the magic of the quest. In the end, she rescues her baby sister, destroys the goblins and returns home--this time firmly responsible for her sister and determined to be so until her father returns home. It is not a comfortable tale, but it is one that highlights feelings that young children may have and discusses them in a format they can identify with.
The language and pictures are beautiful and stunningly poetic, in typical Sendak style. But the story and the way its told can be frightening for some children; themes of kidnapping by goblins, the ice-baby left behind, and Ida's making the goblins dance themselves away, all conjure images that hit on some primal fears and discomforts. The author is not trying to make us comfortable, but that's what makes him such a good author. I suspect people will either love or dislike this book, I'm one who loves it but can equally understand why others might not. So, if you can, take a look at it prior to buying and certainly before you read it to younger children.
On a side note, I believe this story is the basis for the movie Labyrinth. This wonderful movie is a strong tribute to Sendak in so many little ways, but the overall premise of the movie is very similar--a girl's jealous of her new half-brother and wishes the goblins would come and take him away. They do, and she must deal with the goblin king and the challenge he sets before her in order to get her baby brother back. Fabulous movie--if you love the book, I bet you'll love the movie, or vice versa!
Happy reading! ^_^
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on October 30, 2000
I can understand why some might hesitate to read this book to young children -- my mother refuses to read it to my girls, who are just-turned-two and almost-five. But my girls, both of them, ADORE this book. It seems to speak to them on some deep level. Sendak knows that we can't shield children from scary things; the best we can do is lie and pretend they don't exist, which undermines their trust in us, since they can sense the lie, and then they *are* scared. Sendak feels we should instead help them learn to deal with big scary things -- the scariest being our own fears, our anger, our mistakes.
My girls are enthralled by Ida's resourcefulness, her bravery, and the consequences of her initial carelessness. They instinctively understand the baby sister's vulnerability, the power of the father's love. They love it when Ida outsmarts the baby-goblins. I urge people not to prejudge this book, but to let your child decide whether he likes it or not. It is very powerful, and very beautiful.
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on September 26, 1998
My daughter and I read this book 4 to 5 times a day. She is captivated by the baby goblins and feels very strongly about Ida, and how she searches for her sister. She has pretty much memorized the book and I hear her walking through the house singing softly about Ida & how much her PaPa loves her. I highly recommend this book to any parent for their child.
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on June 2, 2013
My personal opinion is that it's disturbing. Almost like it was written in a drug induced haze. Sendak always gets high marks from critics and other parents for his outside the box style of writing, but I'm always left wondering who his books are really for. Do I think "Outside over there" is going to cause young children to need therapy later in life? No, of course not. It's just a really oddball book. For the record, my kindergartener giggled all the way through it, but then became convinced that goblins really did come and steal babies. This was a rather short lived little fear for her, but worth mentioning. I also feel the need to mention that I'm not some super politically correct helicoptor parent trying to protect my kids from every little unpleasantness in the world. I'm sure I read and let my kids be entertained in ways that would make some of the supermoms in the PTA peg my kids for extensive therapy and jailtime later in life. I just don't love this book. Something about it doesn't sit right with me. Perhaps its because of the limited words in the story coupled with bizarre illustrations. Who knows...others seem to love this book, but reviews like mine also need to be published to provide some balance and a different perspective. Of course, you will recognize the bare bones of Labyrinth here, and David Bowie as the Goblin King is inarguably more traumatizing than anything found in this book...but I wouldn't recommend that movie for younger children either. This is listed in the 4-8 years old range, but really this is a case by case basis sort of book. Not all kids are created equal as to what they can handle, and the themes in this one run pretty deep. If your child is particularly sensitive probably not the best call. Mine is a trooper and I thought for sure she'd be fine with it...did not expect her to become convinced her dolls would disappear if she left them unattended.
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If Maurice Sendak had sat in his office one day and pondered to himself, "I should like to stretch my artistic muscles a little", he could not have come up with anything better than the eerie "Outside Over There". The plot is a classic one. Big sister Ida cares for her little baby sister while her father is a way and her mother pines in the arbor. When goblins steal the baby for their bride, it's up to Ida to go outside over there and get her sister back.
For those of you who thought Maurice Sendak made, "Where the Wild Things Are" and then just stopped, you are in for a surprise. This book is a fantastic series of images, exhibiting beautifully a young girl's love for her sibling. Sometimes thought to be the inspiration for the movie Labyrinth (not true: the book "Labyrinth" by A. C. H. Smith was the real basis), the book is beautiful in a way that simultaneously enchants and disturbs. For example, the hooded goblins are nothing more than babies themselves, and clever Ida finds a way to make them dance to their death. The changeling exchanged for Ida's sibling is an eerie ice statue, the most Sendakian image in this entire book. As for the pictures as a whole, the author has excused himself from his previous cartoonish style. The people pictured in this book are strikingly realistic, and they display emotion beautifully. The tender scenes between Ida and her little sister are touching.
This is not a book for everyone. But then, many of Sendak's books are not for everyone. To be a fan of the works of Maurice Sendak is to be comfortable with a certain amount nudity and oddity. Just the same, there are so many things to like about this book that I'd be sad to turn anyone away from it. I'll say this. You will never find its twin. This original piece of work is filled to the brim with interest and imagination, such as you will have a great deal of difficulty finding elsewhere.
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on May 11, 2005
For many years, I could remember reading a book about a little girl, a band of goblin babies, and a stolen younger brother. I also remembered what beautiful illustrations it had and how much I had loved it as a young girl. I was literally haunted by the memories of this beautiful book and tried for several years to find it. Finally I asked the right librarian and she lead me back to this wonderful book. I find it as enthralling and intriguing as I did when I was young, and I'm so happy to have rediscovered it. I think it is a lovely and odd book and would recommend it to all who enjoy such things.
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on January 23, 2006
This is one of my children's favourite books and I believe Maurice Sendak has outdone himself in this extraodinary tale. It is multilayered, and multifaceted both in illustration, text and story.

The basic story has the heroine whose father goes off to sea and leaves her with her mother and in charge of baby. However Goblins come and steal baby leaving one made only of ice. She has to climb out the window to get baby back and bring her back to the real world, but in the process to climbsout the window backwards into Outside Over There. She outwits the Goblins and manages to get baby bringing her back home to mother who has just heard from father and everyone is all right.

The amazing illustrations include some evocative shots - at first mother is seen only from the back, she is beautiful and clearly lonely, the young heronie looks after baby who is never named (another clever aspect of the book). In the background of the first illustrations the faceless goblins in their brown hooded cloaks are obvious, a threat in the background. The Baby made of ice is also a creepy addition, but what is most amazing of these illustrations is the background pictures of the boats which is clearly representative of father, the sailor and his fate. Always surrounded by threats and possibility of harm.

The tempo of text in the book changes from rhyme to free verse and back again, never quite settling and thus increasing the unsettled feeling in the story.

The thing I enjoy is that sheer practicality of the heroine and her ordinariness, she is every child at a young age. She does what she can, which in this case is dressing up in her mothers coat and putting her musical instrument in her pocket. Something any child can do or play at. It is very appealing.

Then there is teh final safety of the book, walking back from the Goblins (who turn out to be quite unthreatening looking babies themselves) she follows a winding stream back to mother when ordinary things are happening and father is safe.

A simple ordinary story directed at children but enormously rich.
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on November 29, 2011
This was my favorite book as a child, and I can't believe some people feel it's too dark for children. The fact is, children are more aware of darkness in the 'real world' than adults. They see it all around them in an anxious parent, urgent newscasts, bits of worried conversations, etc. Books like Outside Over There help kids imagine the real world as mysterious and full of possibilities for bravery and adventure, and help them process feelings they don't fully understand to work through sadness and fear in the all-too-real world.

I was a jealous oldest child when my baby sister was born. My mom had less time for me and was exhausted and more despondent than before, my dad was working overtime to try and make ends meet, and I lived in my own fantasy world a lot of the time. I was very loved, but I had to learn to entertain myself and come to terms with the arrival of a new baby. This reality is probably true for many small children, and this book gives kids a heroine they can relate to in brave Ida. Her world is like ours but not quite -- is she our contemporary or from long ago? Is she American or from somewhere we descended from? Like our children, her baby sister does not speak yet, but trusts and loves her. Her mom is probably battling depression and loneliness, but of course Ida just sees that Mom is sad. Her father is rarely home, but entrusts her with tremendous responsibility which she proudly accepts.

Ida turns her back on her baby sister who she probably resents somewhat, and when she turns back she finds her sister has been taken by goblins. She wraps herself in her mother's jacket (symbolic of taking on an adult role herself, as we all try to do when we try on our parents shoes or purses), and jumps out the window backwards (symbolic of taking on whatever adventure life brings) and uses her wits to rescue her sister from the little hooded goblins who look like human babies (perhaps there are goblins everywhere in the world!). It's a beautiful story, and it resonates with children because it's actually given words and pictures to the mysteries they feel every day.
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on February 28, 2004
I came across this book recently at the library where I work, and was delighted by the fond memories it awakened in me. I absolutely adored this book when I was five or six years old. The story and fantastic artwork fascinated me, and I remember admiring Ida's courage very much. I was surprised to see several people labeling this book as too adult for children. I was a rather sheltered child, and was definitely rather neurotic and easily frightened, but I don't recall ever being anything more than pleasantly spooked by this lovely book. Of course, everything is different for each child, but in my opinion, this book is beautifully written and illustrated, a treat for any child or adult.
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on December 10, 2000
My first impression of this book was that it was frightening and inappropriate for my 2 1/2 year old....boy did I underestimate her! She was engrossed in the story and the beautiful way the words flowed - not to mention the gorgeous illustrations. We checked and re-checked this one out of the library 3 times. Now I'm adding it to our own library. My now almost 3 year-old daughter "reads" this book to us every night at bedtime. This book has her enchanted and engaged each and every night.
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