You know how young children will sometimes receive a super amazing fantastic gift and proceed to derive much more enjoyment from the cardboard box the gift came in? Well, according to Antoinette Portis‘ 2006 book Not a Box, young rabbits do that to.
There are a lot of reasons I enjoy this book, the first of which is because of its design. The book looks like a box (even though it’s not). The cover is made of brown-cardboard-feeling paper. The weight (11.5 ounces) is clearly marked on the front, while the back notes which side is up. The cardboard theme understandably continues in the book’s interior.
The structure is the same throughout, so I’m just going to go through the first one:
Brown lefthand page reading: “Why are you sitting in a box?”
Righthand page: black and white drawing of a young rabbit sitting in a box.
Turn the page.
Red lefthand page: “It’s not a box.”
Righthand page: color (red, black, yellow and white) illustration of the young rabbit driving a race car.
The same scenario is repeated several times until the clever ending.
At first I had thought that this book would be a hard sell for a read-aloud because, well, there isn’t a lot to read. However, after discussing the book with “Tori” I came to a different conclusion. Tori suggested that the book would work better in a more non-traditional storytime where the kids get in on the act. Ask the kids what they see in each picture, let them describe the story. If the children are older, you could also ask them to find the “original” box in each of the rabbits imagined scenarios.
The book would also work well in a one-on-one reading between parents and their own children, which is the scenario I had initially imagined for this book. I like the story because it’s simple with nice drawings that children can clearly interpret thanks to the thick lines and limited palette. Also, since most children do enjoy a good cardboard box, it’s likely that they’ll be intrigued by the rabbit’s scenarios and perhaps find ideas for their own playtime.
I’m not the only one that enjoyed this book. In 2007, Not a Box was selected as a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. The award was established in 2006 for the author and illustrator who annually make “the most distinguished contribution to beginning reader books.”
The fun continues in with a piglet in Not a Stick.