Making an Educator’s Guide for Outside In was a joy to do. You see, the author, Sarah Ellis, was one of my VCFA advisors. Not only was I delighted to be of service to someone I consider to a dear friend, I knew I’d be wowed by her work. Sarah did not let me down. Outside In is incredible! It’s no wonder it's been nominated for the prestigious Red Maple Award. Those smart Canadians … they know a good book when they read one.
Outside In explores the notions of community, environmentalism, materialism, honesty, and friendship. Sarah addresses these heavy concepts in the lively, humorous, and heartfelt manner she’s known for. Here’s how the publisher, Groundwood Books, synopsizes the story. “Lynn’s life is full — choir practice, school, shopping for the perfect jeans, and dealing with her free-spirited mother. Then one day her life is saved by a mysterious girl named Blossom, who introduces Lynn to her own world and family — both more bizarre, yet somehow more sane, than Lynn’s own.” I say, buy the book. You’ll be glad you did!
When going about creating guides for smart, multi-layered, well-crafted books like this one, I like to look for thematic threads in the storyline to explore. One such thread I found in Outside In was the notion of ‘triangulation’ (A term that, interestingly, rhymes with the word ‘strangulation,’ which comes close to describing the emotionally precarious situation the protagonist must face.). The process of triangulation is the establishment of the distance between two points of a triangle. Lynn is not only studying the process of triangulation in Geometry, she living it in the flesh!
Lynn’s enactment of triangulation is contrived by three vastly different groups of people she is associated with – Shakti, her nut-case mother; Celia and Kas, her two best friends; and the Underlanders, a strange yet remarkably tender community of people who live in the underbelly of the city. Shakti, her best friends, and the Underlanders serve as triangle endpoints. When these three worlds discover one another, Lynn is pressed at the poigniant center point of the story – pressed in hard!
In the Educator’s Guide you’ll find several really cool graphic organizers that analyze character, theme, and point of view. And, as bonus, there’s a nifty craft project included that requires basically no cash to create. Download the guide, have a look, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.