Love Was Inside

Andrew Joyner. Random House Studio, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-37518-1

A paper-white child with two long black pigtails looks back on a moment when “everyone was inside.” The scenario unfurls with fitting details: “Who was inside? I was inside. I was inside my room with a clock and my dog and a picture of Nan.” “Inside” also refers to emotional states: “There were days I felt sad inside,” the narrator says, curled up in a chair while weary parents seem to take in news in another room. But the child also feels resilience and love through it all, and confident in the arrival of a joyful day when “everyone would be outside.” Joyner (Bunny Figures It Out) punctuates slice-of-life b&w drawings with bright hues that echo those of the protagonist’s bedroom quilt; blocks of color that highlight a class meeting online and a cityscape at night, for example, nod to the blanket’s pattern. The Covid-19 pandemic is never specifically referenced, and Joyner is careful when using verb tenses—victory is never declared. Deeply empathic and upbeat, this picture book should provide comfort, no matter what the latest news is, with a final page that prompts readers to think about their own “inside” stories. Ages 4–8. Agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Productions. (Dec.)