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 actually "becomes" real— when the imagination takes over and inside a cardboard box, a child is transported to a world where anything is possible.Read more...
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 actually "becomes" real— when the imagination takes over and inside a cardboard box, a child is transported to a world where anything is possible.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 49.
- Review Date: 2006-11-27
- Reviewer: Staff
Sometimes the best toys are improvised, according to this celebration of the humble cardboard box. Packaged in a plain brown jacket that resembles a paper bag (another item with vast potential), this minimalist book features a rabbit-child, simply drawn in a heavy black line. In the first spread, designed in neutral black, white and tan, the rabbit's head peeks out of a rectangle. An offstage voice asks, "Why are you sitting in a box?" When the page turns, the rabbit answers, "It's not a box." A touch of color comes into the image. The empty white background is tinted pale yellow, and a thick red line traces a racecar over the basic black box shape, revealing what the rabbit imagines. By the time the skeptical voice inquires, "Now you're wearing a box?," readers know to expect a playful transformation in the next spread. "This is not a box," replies the rabbit, as a red robot suit is superimposed over the initial drawing. The teasing questions challenge the young rabbit, who demonstrates that a box can serve as a pirate-ship crow's nest, a hot-air balloon basket and a rocket. Readers won't abandon their battery-charged plastic toys, but they might join in a game of reimagining everyday objects. Most profitably, Portis reminds everyone (especially her adult audience) that creativity doesn't require complicated set-ups. Ages 6 mos.-6 yrs. (Jan.)
Reading outside the box
Remember that feeling when you first held Harold and the Purple Crayon in your lap? Something magical was going onthe simplest line drawings were gracefully transformed through the imagination of dear Harold. I am not positive that Antoinette Portis ever read the Crockett Johnson classic, but her little rabbit would certainly have appreciated Harold's imagination. Perhaps Harold and little rabbit could have been playmates.
Portis' deceptively simple tale begins on the title page with the unnamed bunny looking longingly at part of a rectangle. Dragging and pushing it onto the first page of the book, the rabbit stares directly at the reader and hears the unspoken question on the reader's mind, "Why are you sitting in a box?" At this point, I can almost hear a parent gently prodding a young listener, "Why do you think the rabbit is sitting in the box?" and see the listener slow down and wonder. The reward is provided when the page is turned. No longer is the page a dull, cardboard brown. It is racecar red and the rabbit answers simply, "It is not a box." The illustration shows the rabbit in a smart red sports car, ears blown by the wind, eyes protected by goggles.
Oh, that's what's going on here!
The question returns each time the little rabbit changes his position. And the answer is always the same. The rabbit's imagination takes the reader to many new places, as the box becomes, in turn, a mountain peak, an apartment on fire and a robot.
But remember, "It's NOT NOT NOT NOT a box!"
A celebration of imagination, humor and the magic of a cardboard box, this is a book with universal appeal for young readers and the earliest lap listeners. With its pleasing nostalgic feel, Not a Box is an instant classic.
Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher in Nashville.