The Beginner’s Guide to Being Outside

Writer / Artist
The Beginner’s Guide to Being Outside
The Beginner's Guide to Being Outside review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Avery Hill - 978-1-910395-01-1
  • Release date: 2014
  • UPC: 9781910395011
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Young teenager Megan is heading off on holiday with her mother and stepfather, grumpy that this year it’s not going to be Tenerife, but camping in Scotland. Her grandmother won’t be going, but has provided Megan with a book, a guide to Scottish wildlife, but Megan prefers the app version. This gift is given against a backdrop of constant bickering in the car, with Megan assuming a split is forthcoming between her mother and stepfather.

Gill Hatcher’s slim, landscape format story is at its best a touching evocation of the power of nature. Despite herself Megan finds she enjoys the surroundings, and the area is remote enough that the wildlife is exotic by British standards. Delving deeper into the app, Megan fantasises about creatures she’s not seeing as perhaps the holiday isn’t so bad after all.

The illustration is simple, at first glance resembling a child’s drawings, as if perhaps Megan has drawn her own holiday comic, but Hatcher’s techniques are deceptive. One only has to look at the tidy way Megan is drawn, the contrast of night and day, and the care taken when it comes to illustrating various animals and birds. The autumnal colour scheme adds to the mood.

However, while Hatcher sets up a story with viable emotional conflicts she seems to have no idea how to end it. Megan slips out for a night fantasy sequence, then returns home, and that’s it. It’s as if the funding ran out, so the story ends. Nothing is resolved and the reader is left as disappointed as Megan was about not heading to Tenerife in the first place.