Outside Art by Madeline Kloepper

Review by Logaine Navascués

Tundra Books (Penguin Random House), January 2021

48 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, ISBN 978-0-7352-6419-9

Ages 4–8, Grades Pre-K–3

Picture Book, Comedy/Humour, Fiction, Science/Nature

Imagine what would happen if a group of forest animals asked themselves: what is art, and what’s it for? In this playful tale, writer/illustrator Madeline Kloepper invites us to ponder these profound questions through the naïve and unfiltered perspective of a curious pine marten who is spying in on a red-haired human’s day-to-day life. The result is a delightfully fresh and entertaining take on two great questions, with some laughs included.

Kloepper’s text evokes the classic, fable-like tone, where one by one, animals hop in to share their wisdom with the marten, creating subtle tension and suspense as the story unfolds. Her expressive, wide-eyed creatures add to the liveliness of the tale, enhancing the reader’s own curiosity and surprise while moving the narrative forward. The natural setting is covered mostly by the coldness of the snow, visible in the predominant use of white space. However, the otherwise earthy colour palette creates a feeling of warmth and closeness, highlighting the deep connection between art-making and nature, the outside world and the interior world of the artist.

This would be a fun story to read aloud that could inspire meaningful conversations about creativity, the power of imagination, and the significance of leaving one’s own mark. It can also serve as a stepping stone for discussing the value of nurturing diversity and the beauty of looking at the world through many different eyes.   

Logaine Navascués is a Peruvian artist, writer, creative director, teacher, and book maker, currently living in Vancouver. She is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter and two artist’s books. You can find her reading, collecting picture books, and eating chocolate while pursuing her Master of Arts in Children’s Literature (MACL) at UBC.

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