Not a Box
by Antoinette Portis
In Not a Box, written for toddlers, a cardboard box unleashes a bunny’s imagination. When an off-page character asks a bunny why he’s sitting in a box, the bunny insists it’s not a box, and we see what he sees–a race car! Or when wondering why the bunny is squirting the box with a garden hose, we see the bunny battling a fire that’s taken hold of a majestic skyscraper. The text only says that it’s not a box, so kids who haven’t yet learned to read can become engaged by describing how the bunny transformed his box.
Tired of the presumably adult interrogator, the bunny insists it’s NOT NOT NOT NOT a box! And while the bunny’s plaything is most definitely not just a box, the book itself is ingeniously designed to mimic one, complete with a “This Side Up” warning on the back cover.
I love the drawings which are simple and absolutely fabulous. The bunny is so expressive and determined. The story inspires children and the adults who read the book to them see the transformative power of imagination.
I couldn’t help but think of the off-stage adults in Charlie Brown specials whose words are heard as a series of wah-wah-wah tones, emphasizing the distance between childhood and adulthood. Not a Box shows how rewarding a rich imagination can be.