Not a Box
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From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 1—In bold, unornamented line drawings of a rabbit and a box, the creator-illustrator offers a paean to the time-honored imaginative play of young children who can turn a cardboard box into whatever their creativity can conjure. Through a series of paired questions and answers, the rabbit is queried about why he is sitting in, standing on, spraying, or wearing a box. Each time, he insists, “It is not a box!” and the opposite page reveals the many things a small child’s pretending can make of one: a race car, a mountain, a burning building, a robot. One important caveat: the more youthful end of the intended audience is both literal and concrete in their approach to this material. The box itself, drawn as a one-dimensional rectangle, will be perceived by preschoolers to be flat and not readily understood as three-dimensional. Furthermore, those children are likely to interpret the “box’s” transformation to be “magic,” whilst five- and six-year-olds may be able to make the cognitive conversion from flat rectangle to three-dimensional box and to keep in mind that the transformation has been made by the rabbit’s own imagination. Both audiences will enjoy the participatory aspect of identifying each of the rabbit’s new inventions. Knowledgeable adults will bring along a large box to aid in understanding and to encourage even more ideas and play.—Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Old Greenwich, CT
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Wrapped in basic, grocery-bag-brown paper, this streamlined book visualizes a child’s imagined games. “Why are you sitting in a box?” reads the opening page, opposite an image of a small rabbit, drawn in the most simple, unshaded lines, who appears next to a square. “It is not a box,” reads the text, presumably in the rabbit’s defiant voice, on the next page, and equally simple red lines overlay the black-lined rabbit and box to show a speeding roadster. In the following spreads, the questioner (a clueless adult?) continues to ask about the rabbit’s plans, whilst the little voice answers with the book’s protest of a title. This owes a large debt to Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955). And as in Johnson’s classic, the spare, streamlined design and the visual messages about imagination’s power will easily draw young children, who will recognize their own flights of fantasy. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
See all Editorial Reviews
Don’t miss this wholly original celebration of the power of imagination, winner of a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor AwardA box is just a box…unless It is not a box. From mountain to rocket ship, a small rabbit shows that a box will go so far as the imagination allows.Inspired by a memory of sitting in a box on her driveway with her sister, Antoinette Portis captures the thrill when pretend feels so real that it in truth becomes real—when the imagination takes over inside a cardboard box, and through play, a child is transported to a world where anything is imaginable.The simple text makes the book appropriate for toddlers, but the message and retro feel of the book also lead to it being an original and compelling gift to mark an occasion such as a graduation.
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