Kidlit Review: Outside, You Notice by: Erin Alladin pictures by: Andrea Blinick

Published by: Pajama Press

For my family, the best pandemic by-product has been spending more time outside. No agenda. Just, outside. Noticing bumblebees on clover flowers and flipping over large stones in search of baby crabs, worms, and centipedes. I feel like life pre-Covid was intensely scheduled by comparison, and although we are an active family and spent lots of time hiking and at the beach, it was usually social or for a special event. During this past year and and a half I have said to my child at least once a day, “go outside and play”.

To counteract my son’s obsession with anthropomorphized trucks, I’m always on the lookout for good picture books that celebrate nature. I came across Erin Alladin’s non-fiction picture book Outside You Notice on social media and was immediately pulled in. Alladin inspires readers to just sit with the magic of outside. This timely picture book uses kid- friendly meditative language to gently ponder grand concepts about our environment like how things grow, and how microbes from the earth help our immune systems. The book is sprinkled with nature facts ideal for four – seven year olds that educate little readers and listeners about how plants live and grow.

Illustrator Andrea Blinick beautifully pictures inclusive images of “outside.” From a garden, to a cracked city sidewalk, to the farmers market, to the playground, little readers will see themselves and their varied homes in this book.

Just the other day, I found my little one staring up a tall tree. “An owl,” he whispered with reverence. We spent hours watching robins try to knock this owl from her perch. She swooped and flew around us and sat back down to a barrage of mean birds. The thing is, I had no idea robins were so terrible to owls. I am sure there is a good reason and now I’m curious to know it. Our little Outside, You Notice moment raised a multitude of questions that we will research throughout the summer.

I recommend that all parents, teachers, and carers interested in instilling a curiosity about the natural world and a commitment to mindfulness to pick up a copy of Outside You Notice. 

Erin was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

Candice Suchocki Weir: Tell us a bit about your inspiration for this picture book?
Erin Alladin: I started writing Outside, You Notice because I saw how much demand there was for resources to support kids getting more time outdoors, and also more resources about mindfulness. And with mindfulness content, I saw the same concept over and over again: sit quietly with yourself and notice what information your senses are giving you. Well that's exactly how I spent much of my childhood. It's how I taught myself about chipmunk behaviour and plant identification. Learning through sensory observation is a skill kids naturally have. Adults just need to get out of the way and give them the time to use it! Outside, You Notice exists to remind kids and their grown-ups about that.

The most magical thing is that, ever since the book was released, people of all ages have been reaching out to me saying, "Look at this cool mushroom I found!" or "Do you know the name of this wildflower?" It's like reading the book was all they needed to remember how rewarding it is to simply notice things.

CSW: What does ‘the Wild’ mean to you as an author/human?
EA: That's a big question. On the one hand, as an adult who has grown up seeing the impacts of colonialism and the exploitation of natural resources, I can't help reacting to the word with regret. Because how many ecosystems do we have left that are truly wild? On the other hand, the idea of pre-colonial wilderness is warped anyway. Humans have been managing their environment for thousands of years; it's just that societies built around capitalism and, before that, mercantilism, lose sight of the fact that we are a part of the ecosystem. If we remember that, if we bring "wild" into our own hearts, then we can change our actions so that the ecosystems we're part of are healthier.

That's my adult perspective. When I remember to look through a child's eyes, I see that "wild" is everywhere in spite of our actions. As Andrea Blinick shows so well in the illustrations of Outside, You Notice, nature is everywhere—even in our most built-up spaces. There are more plants growing in sidewalk cracks than I can name (and I'm someone who memorizes wildflower names for fun). Isn't that exciting?

CSW: Do you have a favourite book about wild imagination that you’d like to share? Maybe something you read as a child?
EA: My favourite picture book is Say It! by Charlotte Zolotow. On the surface it's a very simple story about a mother and daughter taking a walk on a beautiful autumn day, but the surprise message at the end is that every time the mother comments on something beautiful they're seeing, she's really saying "I love you." My mom and I still take walks together on a regular basis, and every so often when we see something spectacular, one of us will look at the other out of the corner of our eye and grin and say, "Say it!"

CSW: What’s next for you? Or anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
EA: I have some projects simmering that I can't share yet, but I do make content that people can access anytime. One of my biggest passions is taking the ideas behind regenerative agriculture and making them accessible to people on a home scale, even if they don't have much gardening experience. I do that in a bite-sized way on TikTok as @erinalladin, and I dive in with a lot more detail on my blog,

Erin Alladin is an editor, a writer, and an ecology enthusiast who is always looking for ways to combine her passions. Born in Northern Ontario to a gardener and a forester, she spent most of her early life looking at and thinking about the natural world. Her twenties were spent immersed in Toronto’s children’s literature scene before Erin retreating back up north, where she continues to edit while growing vegetables and writing about regenerative agriculture. Erin lives near Parry Sound with her husband, her garden, and not quite enough bookshelves.

Andrea Blinick is an artist and an art educator with a passion for children’s literature. After graduating from the OCAD with an illustration diploma, she went on to receive a Bachelor of Design through OCAD in conjunction with Thompson Rivers University and then pursued a Bachelor of Education at York University. Today Andrea lives in Toronto with her husband and two daughters, who often inspire the storytelling behind her art. She enjoys music, writing, comedy, and making a mess on her art table. Andrea contributed to 'A World of Mindfulness' By Erin Alladin, Pajama Press, in collaboration with 13 other artists. Andrea’s first picture book as sole illustrator will be published by Pajama Press in Spring 2021, it is titled 'Outside, You Notice' By Erin Alladin.