Christy Hale on Out the Door

h1 October 13th, 2020 by jules


It’s a pleasure to have a visit today from author-illustrator Christy Hale. Her new picture book, Out the Door (Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, October 2020), takes readers to busy Brooklyn. Here, a young girl makes her way to school and back home again, and it’s all about the journey—”out the door, down the stoop, past the neighbors along the block….” As you can tell from the spreads below, it’s an adventure in prepositions (perfect for elementary students in that particular unit of study), but it’s much more. As Christy says below, it’s a book about “the connection between the words ‘commute’ and ‘community.’”

Here’s Christy, in her own words, and a handful of the beautifully textured cut-paper collages from the book.

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(Click cover to enlarge)


Christy: After 9/11, when our family moved from our Brooklyn apartment across the East River from the Twin Towers, our daughter’s commute to school dramatically changed. I loved telling her new California friends that when we lived in New York, she traveled underground to school, used an elevator to get to her classroom, and had recess on the roof!

In her new California school, there was no central entrance where families came together at the beginning and end of the day, like in her Brooklyn School. Each classroom had a separate door onto the playground. In our new community, the sidewalks were mostly empty. Neighbors got into their cars in their driveways and then, all enclosed, drove to their destinations. I missed the casual encounters of a pedestrian lifestyle.

I started thinking about the connection between the words “commute” and “community.” This preface from The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson, sums it up well:

New York is almost the last place in the nation where neighbors routinely pass one another on the sidewalk or exchange greetings at a corner store, in the local park, or at a community center. From stoops and front porches they discuss news of their block or of the world. Indeed, New York has become the best place in the United States to experience what was once the essence of small-town America.

This book is more than a prepositional journey from the tree-lined streets of our old neighborhood onto the subway and into the bustling city. It is my celebration of the community spirit of daily life in Brooklyn.

Here are two early experiments when I was trying to figure out my approach.


(Click to enlarge)


In this first one, I’m messing around with stencil printing for shapes and lines, string prints for the tree branches, and splatters for the foliage. It’s incomplete.


(Click to enlarge)


I also explored cut paper collage.

My editor, Neal Porter, encouraged me to get really specific with the details of place. The following piece, based on where we lived, set my style for the book:


“down the stoop …”
(Click spread, which is sans text, to enlarge)


(Click image to enlarge)


Here is an early sketch dummy, which went through some changes before final art:



(Click each to enlarge)


I loved having permission to capture details of the old neighborhood. I even got to show street signs and subway station names. Here are some more spreads:


“past the neighbors along the block …”
(Click spread, which is sans text, to enlarge)


“up to the light / across the street …”
(Click spread, which is sans text, to enlarge)


“outside the station / at the booth / beyond the turnstile …”
(Click spread, which is sans text, to enlarge)


“below the ground …”
(Click spread, which is sans text, to enlarge)


“into daylight …”
(Click spread, which is sans text, to enlarge)


Here is the book trailer. And you can learn more about Out the Door at—and download the Educator’s Guide and reproducible activities.

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OUT THE DOOR. Text and illustrations copyright © 2020 by Christy Hale. Published by Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, New York. All images reproduced by permission of Christy Hale.

One comment to “Christy Hale on Out the Door

  1. As always, it’s really interesting the conclusions people come to about housing and neighborhoods… having lived in multiple places in Cali, I’d say it’s based on the economic area how people live… there are definitely people still passing each other on the street, seeing each other on stoops, etc., but it’s not so much deep in suburbia; multifamily housing like that on the West Coast is much more likely to be the homes of poorer people, or in mixed use housing downtown – i.e., outside of suburbia. This is a cute homage to NY and ONE kind of living there, nonetheless.

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