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on 27 September 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 15 November 2012
I just wanted to write a review as i thought the one star review here was desperately unfair. I would refer you to the excellent review headed: "A timeless fairy-tale with so much more beneath the surface. 21 April 2002"

Yes, it is a scary tale when read with adult eyes - the goblins are creepy and knowing that it was partly inspired by the Lindberg kidnapping case (the window, the ladder) is not reassuring. But I was never scared of it as a child and nor is my 3 year old now. Instead she's fascinated and I appreciate the word-perfect, if sometimes puzzling, text and the gorgeous illustrations.

It actually was written as part of a trilogy to go with Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. I value it highly, especially as it stars an active, heroic young girl - so refreshing in our new Disney Princess pervaded world.

I urge you to buy this as well as the superb In the Night Kitchen to accompany the inevitable Where the Wild Things Are.

Sendak's other works aren't that well known in the UK but also look at his glorious miniature treasure The Nutshell Library (4 books all in tiny hardback editions and bound in a specially designed cover: Pierre (a cautionary tale), Alligators all Around (the alphabet), Chicken Soup with Rice (the months of the year) and One Was Johnny (numbers). There's also a soundtrack to these works written by Carole King. Children love to sing along with these books.
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on 21 April 2002
This book haunts me. I bought it weeks ago and it still lies by my bed. I cannot bring myself to put it on a shelf. Most nights I flick through it, selecting one or two pages to pore over. I read its entirety maybe twice a week hoping to peel another layer of meaning, another allusion. Often it defeats me. There is more to this picture book of 359 words and 9 single and 11 double page illustrations than the sum of its parts.
The story of 9-year-old Ida rescuing her baby sister from goblins with the aid of the magical music from her wonder horn is timeless and enjoyable and could happily slip in to any century's fairy tale tradition. And as with the very best fairy tales there is so much more beneath the surface if the reader cares enough to look.
As is proper, the first things you notice on opening the book are the illustrations and how slightly strange they appear. Extensive photo reference for the figures married to the fantasy landscapes they inhabit lends the book a surreal edginess. These illustrations avoid the airy cross-hatching of "Where the Wild Things Are" or the comic book boldness and flat colours of "In the Night Kitchen" (the two previous books in Sendak's loose trilogy). Instead "Outside Over There" is filled to bursting with sumptuous, velvety watercolours akin to Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Yet for all their painterly-ness and lovingly rendered seas, skies and foliage the pictures are not immediately accessible and they are not pretty. Rather, theirs is a stealthy beauty uncovered through scrutiny. I cannot look at them now without a tingle at the base of my skull, and a churning in my gut for the man's overwhelming talent.
The text is a different animal entirely, with a simplicity that hides the amount of work Sendak put in perfecting it. One hundred drafts over a year and a half distilled the text to a bareness that threatens to dissolve in front of your eyes. This is spare but substantial writing with a poetic depth. However, if there is a fault it lies in the words. An occasional turn of phrase will have a slightly over-wrought, over-written weight that risks unravelling the delicacy of the rest. That said, the words keep their feet at these moments and join with the paintings in an intensity that avoids shallow prettiness.
Sendak has said "Outside Over There" resonates on three levels. The top level, I take to mean, is the baby kidnapping plot. Beneath this is the deep psychological vein of Ida coming to terms with unwanted responsibility (i.e. having to look after her baby sister. It was her failure to do so that allowed the kidnapping to occur). There are some tremendous illustrations that capture vividly Ida's frustration and anger. The view from her window switches from foliage to a stormy sea and the sinking of a sailing ship (her father's?) suggesting a rather disturbing orphan fantasy is being played out in Ida's head, revenge for this most boring of tasks falling to her when she'd much rather be playing her horn. This moment convinced me that this book should not be classed exclusively as children's literature. It poses other questions. Is this a children's book despite or because of these difficult and controversial ideas? Can children see the meaning beyond the symbolism and relate to the anger and frustration, or is it beyond their ken? Is this actually an adult's book? Sendak is famous for never writing down to children and maintains they know exactly what is going on. I would like to think so too, and would have no hesitation in giving this book to my young daughter.
There is also a suggestion that what happens in the story does not, in fact, happen at all. It is all part of a fantasy Ida creates to escape the tedium of child-minding while her mother is momentarily occupied with thoughts of her far-flung sailor husband.
Sendak's third level, then, is the parallels the story has with his own life, either direct or subliminal. Although the heroine of the book is undoubtedly Ida, Sendak has said that it is the baby's story, and that, unusually, it is with the baby that he identifies. When Sendak was born his sister, Natalie, was Ida's age and had to spend much of her time supervising the infant Maurice. Mozart is the artist's favourite composer and this influence pervades the whole book. The story is set at the end of the eighteenth century (Mozart died in 1791). In one picture Mozart can be seen sitting at a piano composing "The Magic Flute" (Ida's instrument is "the wonder horn"). One of the denouements in the story is apparently stolen from "The Magic Flute", but without hearing this opera I do not know what it is! What purpose the sleeping shepherd who is later seen driving his flock over a hill? Who are the three red-haired fellows crossing the bridge and what are they pointing at? There are so many little delights and details enlivening these pictures, with colours so striking and compositions so energetic that it is hard to see a time, even with repeated viewings, when they will ever become stale. It is my fervent hopes to one day see these paintings in the original.

This 20 year-old book should not be kept from adults simply because bookshops automatically squirrel it away in the children's section - and adults should not be ashamed to seek this book out to read it for themselves! A place should be found for it among more 'adult' literature.
"Outside Over There" is not a children's book, nor is it an adult's book. It is plain and simply a book with pictures, and one with a universal appeal borne out by its longevity. It is also Maurice Sendak's most potent artistic statement, conceived of intellect and passion in equal measure, and a genuine work of art.
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on 7 August 2012
Fascinating travel to the world of child dream and fantasy with outstanding pictures of Maurice Sendak. Almost as good as Where The Wild Things Are. My daughter loves it.
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on 20 January 2010
I am such a Sendak lover, I appriciate all his contributions to children's literature. I think he should be such a big part of anyones child life as his books are just so enchanting. This book was a harder read than his others but with beautiful pictures and some help and time spent from a parent and friend a child would love it. It really gets in touch with a childs dark side (in a good way ofcourse).
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on 10 May 2015
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on 5 January 2012
Very odd story, which I guess Maurice Sendak is known for, but this one is not in the same league as' Where The Wild Things Are' or 'The Night Kitchen' which are both superb, this is just a bit odd and didn't engage my children at all.
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on 6 February 2016
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on 29 July 2014
Watch out for Amadeus in the summer house!
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on 4 July 2010
My main problem with this book is the illustrations.

The faceless hooded kidnappers are horrific, and added to the terrifying story about children being stolen from their homes, has surely given countless children nightmares, even though there is a happy ending.
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