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Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
A 2007 Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Book
Summary: A rabbit is questioned why he is standing in, sitting on, and wearing a cardboard box, but the rabbit insists that it is NOT a box. To rabbit, it is a race car he is driving, a mountain to climb, a burning building he must save, or his robot outfit, whatever his imagination allows the box to be, that's what it is. But definitely don't call it a box.
Portis, A. (2006). Not a box. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Impressions: I love this story for so many reasons. The drawings are simplistic, but easy to read, and spark the imagination the way that this book is intended. They also underscore the idea that permeates this book-- just because it's simple doesn't make it boring. This book is imaginative, pushing the mind to figure out other things you could make a box into. Is it a house where trolls live? A submarine? A deep dark cave where a big black bear sleeps? Is it a turtle's shell? Is it a time machine? Or as Calvin (& Hobbes) might suggest, a transmogrifier? The possibilities are endless. Portis brilliantly shows how creative you can be with simple objects, and her artistic style reflects that with simple lines, bold colors, and a single character. This is a great book to read to young children just starting to play pretend, and for older children who will celebrate rabbit's creativity. This book reinforces that the imagination is something that can take you really take you places, and this book really did that for me.
"In bold, unornamented line drawings of a rabbit and a box, the author-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's 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 younger 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," while five- and six-year-olds are able to make the cognitive conversion from flat rectangle to three-dimensional box and to understand 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."
McClelland, K. (2007). [Review of the book Not a box, by A. Portis]. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/
"Dedicated “to children everywhere sitting in cardboard boxes,” this elemental debut depicts a bunny with big, looping ears demonstrating to a rather thick, unseen questioner (“Are you still standing around in that box?”) that what might look like an ordinary carton is actually a race car, a mountain, a burning building, a spaceship or anything else the imagination might dream up. Portis pairs each question and increasingly emphatic response with a playscape of Crockett Johnson–style simplicity, digitally drawn with single red and black lines against generally pale color fields. Appropriately bound in brown paper, this makes its profound point more directly than such like-themed tales as Marisabina Russo’s Big Brown Box (2000) or Dana Kessimakis Smith’s Brave Spaceboy (2005). (Picture book. 5-7)"Uses:
[Review of the book Not a box, by A. Portis]. (2006, December 1). Kirkus' Reviews. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com
Read this book in story time. Act out all the imaginings from the story with a real box. Then, have the children make up one new thing that they could pretend the box to be, and have them act it out with the box.
Also try the companion, Not a Stick, also by Antoinette Portis