Updated: May 20, 2020
Book Title: The Garden of Inside-Outside (available here)
Author: Chiara Mezzalama
Illustrator: Regis Lejonc
Translator: Sarah Ardizzone
Publisher: Book Island
Publication Date: April 2020
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6+
Reviewed By: Caroline Relf
The Garden of Inside-Outside by Chiara Mezzalama and Régis Lejonc is yet another beautifully translated book (by Sarah Ardizzone) published by independent picture book publishing house Book Island. This graphic novel is based on Chiara Mezzalama’s life as a child, when her father was Italy’s ambassador to Iran during troubled times for the country. During the summer of 1981, Chiara’s family went to spend time in the embassy with her father. The book tells the story of some of their time there, starting with the process of leaving Italy for Iran. Once there, the narrator emphasises the relative safety of the ‘inside’ - the embassy and it's grounds - in comparison to the dangerous ‘outside’ - in the city where the war raged, named as the ‘city-monster.’ In the illustrations, there is a clear contrast between these two places: greens and blues to represent the ‘inside’ (especially the embassy garden) and reds to represent the outside. Initially enjoying the safety and comfort of the inside, the siblings then yearn for a friend and so got a new dog. Soon, the lines between the inside and outside become blurred and it is clear that the danger, worry and hatred from outside have seeped inside. The colours in the illustrations begin to merge and the difference between outside and inside becomes less pronounced. An unexpected visitor causes yet more blurring of the inside and out, but this time perhaps not in such a threatening way. The story highlights the importance of unity and togetherness in difficult times and how friendships can grow even in the most difficult of circumstances. It shows that despite language barriers, walls and borders, relationships, friendships and hope can blossom anywhere.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel member Caroline for reviewing it.
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