Once upon a time, he was a little boy.
And all I had to do to entertain him was plop him into a cardboard box with a set of colored markers.
It’s that simple, really. Because, you see, the box isn’t a box. It is a space orb or a pirate ship or a magical castle. And the markers created buttons and flames and steering wheels.
By my guess, this picture was taken sometime in 2000, a few years before Not a Box by Antoinette Portis was published. I have to wonder why on earth I could never come up with such a book, myself, when you consider how many hours my own children spent in boxes; and then I wonder if Ms. Portis has children, like mine, who daydreamed and created and played in boxes while she showered or got caught up with email – or perhaps she hid out in boxes, herself, as a child.
In any case, it is a sensational book. The language is simple (in fact, it won a Geisel Award in 2007), but the concept one that only someone with imagination intact can understand and appreciate. Bunny is asked by a narrator (perhaps an unimaginative adult type) why she is doing this, that, and the other thing with a box? And Bunny keeps saying, “it’s not a box!” Because, of course, it isn’t. It is a marvelous toy, a fabulous plaything. Every child understands.
Can’t find a giant box for your youngster to climb into? That’s ok! See what happens when you hand her any kind of box! I’ve had students tell me that their toothpaste box is a magic wand or a rolling pin! A cereal box is an iPad; a soap box, a cell phone! Or, a whole slew of boxes can be taped and glued together to build a town or a school or who knows what. It’s kinda amazing all the things your not-a-box might be!
~ After a fun-filled day of box-play, snuggle up with Too Many Toys by the incomparable David Shannon to hear another author’s interpretation of how incredibly awesome boxes-as-toys can be! Some pretty great conversations can be had as a result. Maybe it’ll inspire some closet-cleaning!
~ Give Meeow and the Big Box by Sebastian Braun a try, too! Meeow is pretty clever – what does he make with a box? For that matter, give some of the other Meeow books a try – he is a super encourager of imaginative play!
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