It’s November, time to:
- Elect our next president and fill other state and federal offices;
- Turn back the clocks;
- Head indoors as outside temperatures fall;
- Give thanks and share our blessings with others.
So why have I chosen to feature a picture book about a BOX?
- Countless school & community groups are hosting food drives now – filling cardboard boxes with meals for less-fortunate neighbors;
- Boxes are a great indoor escape from cold, rainy fall weather, especially as the sun retreats earlier each afternoon; and
- If you live in a contested state, or listen to, read or watch any news sources, you may by now just want to curl up in a box – or perhaps you may want to do so next Wednesday.
Without further ado, off to unpack today’s Perfect Picture Book:
Title: What to Do With a Box
Written By: Jane Yolen
Illustrated By: Chris Sheban
Publisher/date: Creative Editions/2016
Suitable for Ages: 6-8 (or younger)
Themes/Topics: rhyming picture book, cardboard boxes, imagination, creativity, adventure, recycling
Opening: “A box! A box is a strange device. You can open it once. You can open it twice.”
Brief Synopsis: A “how to” play with an empty cardboard box
Links to Resources:
- Use your imagination to repurpose a cardboard box as a vehicle, costume or other item
- Think of other things you can recycle into toys or other items.
Why I Like this Book:
In fewer than 200 words, Jane Yolen opens the box on creativity, inviting children to imagine, explore, set off on adventures. The only characters in the book are two unnamed children, a boy and a girl, with a dog, and the suggestion is that “you” can participate in adventures, journeys and imaginative play with a box, too.
Chris Sheban’s soft illustrations mimic the colors of a cardboard box and complement Ms. Yolen’s text well. As one reviewer noted, the pair combine “soft words and soothing visuals”, providing “inspiration without instruction.”
A Note about Craft:
I immediately was struck by two things when I read What to Do With a Box: the quiet, lyrical language and the lack of character names. Concerning the latter, I think by leaving the characters nameless, Ms. Yolen makes it easier for young listeners to envision themselves in the story – something she encourages further by inviting “you” to join in on the action. This reminded me of the directives in A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers/Sam Winston (Candlewick Press, 2016), in which the narrator, a nameless “child of books,” will journey with “you” to discover the joys of literature.
And while What to Do With a Box is an action story, all of the actions require thought and contemplation. This isn’t hurried, slapstick action. Rather, the children and you think about what to do with the box and, harnessing creativity, repurpose it in many imaginative ways.
Finally, no review of this book would be complete without a note about word choice. Ms. Yolen seemingly chooses her words not just to keep the rhythm and rhyme, but to draw the reader in, to paint a picture as one child “crayon[s] an egret” and the other sails not just anywhere, but “to Paris and back”. Such beautiful images!
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!