Author/Illustrator: Antoinette Portis
Age Group: 1-5
Synopsis: A box is hardly a box, when an imagination is involved.
The Low Down:
Cardboard boxes always hold an incredible amount of play ideas but big cardboard boxes seem to multiple those exponentially. There’s something almost magical in the way that they can reach into to the realm of imagination and provide the bridge sometimes necessary for little ones to cross into that magical realm. We are huge box fans and so the bunny from Not a Box was preaching to the choir in this fabulously simple but fantastic story.
Bunny, the main character, basically repeats himself throughout the book. His variations of “This is not a box!”are directed at the reader who seems to take on the role of an inquiring parent. The reader keeps asking what Bunny is doing with the box and Bunny keeps responding as previously stated. At the end, the reader wonders what he/she should call the rectangular object that Bunny is playing with. Bunny compromises in calling it a Not-a-Box.
The illustrations are white pages with only red and black lines. Bunny and the box are always in black while the imaginary items are drawn in red. I love also how Bunny never describes what it is he’s imagining. Portis does a fabulous job giving the readers the information and letting them interpret what they will. Just like the illustrations this empowers small readers. So often little ones are part of conversations that direct them towards a specific goal or answer. It’s also so important, especially in cultivating creativity, to allow for that open-ended response to let them take the lead and run with it.
Much like a newly-emptied cardboard box, Portis provide an excellent arena in which little ones can practice and stretch their imaginations skills. By limiting the text and providing engaging but open illustrations, Not a Box enables creativity and growth. We can be pleasantly surprised when we allow our children this freedom to view the world without constraints. On one page, where Bunny seems to be climbing a mountain, Bug launched into a story about how Bunny had actually gone to the top of a volcano and his flag was in fact an instrument used to measure the magma’s temperature. Way more interesting than what I would have said.
- Let your little one describe the pages with the imaginary items. If they are stalling saw something vastly different than what’s shown (i.e. “Oh! He’s riding on a kitty cat” for a picture when he’s climbing a mountain).
I need more!
An awesome follow up to Not a Box is Not a Stick. Additionally her book: A Penguin Story is delightfully adorable. Check out more of her work at: http://www.antoinetteportis.com
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