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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | graphic novel

Chasing Peace: Refugee Stories

This sum­mer, deeply trou­bling sto­ries about migrants and refugees at the US-Mex­i­can bor­der have come to us in news­pa­per sto­ries, record­ings, pho­tographs, and videos. In choos­ing to sep­a­rate chil­dren from their par­ents, our gov­ern­ment has shown a dis­turb­ing lack of empa­thy for peo­ple flee­ing vio­lence and tur­moil in their home coun­tries. It is our hope that these pic­ture books will help fos­ter empa­thy and shed light on the com­plex issues of migra­tion for young read­ers, while giv­ing a sense of the courage, resilience, and human­i­ty behind each jour­ney.

Kari:

The Jour­ney
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Francesca San­na 
Fly­ing Eye Books, 2016

This remark­able book had its begin­nings when author/illustrator Francesca San­na met two girls in a refugee camp in Italy and lis­tened to their sto­ry. Soon, she began col­lect­ing many more sto­ries of peo­ple forced to flee their home­lands and decid­ed to cre­ate a col­lage of these expe­ri­ences in this stun­ning pic­ture book. The Jour­ney feels at once uni­ver­sal and spe­cif­ic as it fol­lows one fam­i­ly on their long, dan­ger­ous voy­age from their beloved home­town, which has become a war­zone, toward an uncer­tain future in “a coun­try far away with high moun­tains”, where they can be safe. We don’t know the details, but evoca­tive illus­tra­tions use dark, abstract­ed shapes to great psy­cho­log­i­cal effect through­out the book to depict the fear the chil­dren feel as they flee the war that “took” their father.

from The Jour­ney, illus­tra­tion copy­right Francesca San­na

The jour­ney is a pre­car­i­ous one as the fam­i­ly trav­els first by car, then hides in trucks, trav­els at night by bicy­cle and then on foot, only to arrive at a bor­der, where they must hide and lat­er be smug­gled across. An illus­tra­tion depict­ing the crowd­ed boat pas­sage feels aching­ly famil­iar from images in the news. After cross­ing many bor­ders, the sight of migrat­ing birds fly­ing sug­gest the hope of a secure future for this brave and resource­ful fam­i­ly.

Susan Marie: 

A Dif­fer­ent Pond
writ­ten by Bao Phi
illus­trat­ed by Thi Bui
Cap­stone Press, 2017

A Dif­fer­ent Pond is a sto­ry from a Viet­namese refugee fam­i­ly liv­ing in Min­neapo­lis, Min­neso­ta. A boy and his father go fish­ing at a city lake in the chilly, ear­ly morn­ing dark: “We stop at the bait store on Lake Street. It always seems to be open.” When the two return home with their catch at sun­rise, the boy’s par­ents will head off to their Sat­ur­day jobs. Author Bao Phi and illus­tra­tor Thi Bui have received major awards for this pic­ture book, a Char­lotte Zolo­tow Award and a Calde­cott Hon­or, respec­tive­ly.

Both the text and the art weave togeth­er three strands: the grit­ti­ness of life in the city, the trau­ma of refugee strug­gle, and the sim­ple beau­ty of human expe­ri­ence. Take, for exam­ple, the moment when the boy and his father sit and eat togeth­er. Their break­fast is two sand­wich­es, plain cold bologna on white bread. The two talk for a moment about how the father used to fish by a pond with his broth­er who died in the war. And yet the moment is also beau­ti­ful. Bui’s illus­tra­tion recre­ates the glow of a small fire and the play of light on their faces, while Phi’s text cap­tures a bit of mag­ic: “There’s half a pep­per­corn, like a moon split in two, stud­ded into the meat.”

from the book A Dif­fer­ent Pond, illus­tra­tion copy­right Thi Bui.

A reward­ing read­ing project for adults inter­est­ed in this book is to read it along­side adult titles also pub­lished in 2017. Bao Phi’s most recent book of poems, Thou­sand Star Hotel, pub­lished by Cof­fee House Press, and Thi Bui’s graph­ic nov­el mem­oir, The Best We Could Do, pub­lished by Abrams, are pierc­ing and beau­ti­ful accounts of the expe­ri­ence of their refugee fam­i­lies.

Kari:

Stepping Stones: a Refugee Family's JourneyStep­ping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Jour­ney
writ­ten by Mar­gri­et Ruurs
art­work by Nizar Ali Badr
Orca Book Pub­lish­ers, 2016

This sto­ry of a fam­i­ly leav­ing war-torn Syr­ia is anchored by unusu­al and evoca­tive stone col­lages cre­at­ed by Syr­i­an artist Nizar Ali Badr. A young girl, Rama, nar­rates the chang­ing land­scape of her dai­ly life with her fam­i­ly, where she goes from the peace of lis­ten­ing to Mama prepar­ing break­fast (“bread, yogurt, juicy red toma­toes from our gar­den”) to the vio­lence of flee­ing Syr­ia “when bombs fell too close to our home.” As the fam­i­ly under­takes this per­ilous jour­ney, the weight of stone in the illus­tra­tions con­veys a sense of grav­i­ty and resilience as the fam­i­ly forges ahead and makes new mem­o­ries “not of war, but of peace.” The text is bilin­gual in Eng­lish and Ara­bic and a por­tion of the pro­ceeds of this book goes to sup­port Syr­i­an refugees.

from The Step­ping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Jour­ney, illus­tra­tion copy­right Nizar Ali Badr

Susan Marie: 

Two White RabbitsTwo White Rab­bits
writ­ten by Jairo Buitra­go
illus­trat­ed by Rafael Yock­teng
trans­lat­ed by Elisa Ama­do
Ground­wood Books, 2015

This pic­ture book, Two White Rab­bits, is a work of art for all ages, told from the point of view of a young girl who is mak­ing her way north through Mex­i­co with her father. The dif­fi­cult world of the sto­ry is depict­ed with remark­able ten­der­ness. Del­i­cate shad­ing in the draw­ings details every­thing from the feath­ers on hens, to the rolled sleeves of men rid­ing atop freight cars, to the bushy tail of the chu­cho (mutt) that trav­els along on the har­row­ing jour­ney. At the open­ing of the sto­ry, the lit­tle girl explains, “When we trav­el I count what I see,” and she counts cows, birds, clouds, peo­ple by the rail­road tracks, while her ever-atten­tive father nav­i­gates their com­pli­cat­ed route. She rides with her father through the night in the back of a pick­up truck: “Some­times, when I’m not sleep­ing, I count the stars. There are thou­sands, like peo­ple. And I count the moon. It is alone. Some­times I see sol­diers, but I don’t count them any­more.”

illus­tra­tion from Two White Rab­bits, illus­tra­tion copy­right Rafael Yock­teng

Author Jairo Buitra­go, who lives in Mex­i­co, and artist Rafael Yock­teng, who lives in Colom­bia, have worked togeth­er on a num­ber of acclaimed books trans­lat­ed from the Span­ish, includ­ing Jim­my the Great­est! (2010), Walk with Me (2017), and On the Oth­er Side of the Gar­den (2018), all pub­lished by Ground­wood Books.

Kari:

The Arrival
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Shaun Tan
Loth­i­an Books, 2006

I think of The Arrival as an unusu­al and fas­ci­nat­ing pic­ture book/graphic nov­el hybrid. It is 128 pages, word­less, and makes use of both pan­els and full page spreads to tell the sto­ry of a man jour­ney­ing ahead of his fam­i­ly to forge a life for them in a new coun­try. This sur­re­al tale begins in the man’s home­land, which has been over­run by the loom­ing shapes of omi­nous mon­sters. The sto­ry unfolds after he arrives in an over­whelm­ing­ly for­eign city full of strange ani­mals, cus­toms, and an unfa­mil­iar lan­guage (cre­ator Shaun Tan made up a visu­al lan­guage to sim­u­late the expe­ri­ence of dis­ori­en­ta­tion for the read­er). The com­mon strug­gles many refugees face of find­ing work, hous­ing, and com­mu­ni­cat­ing are all present in the rich­ly detailed pen­cil illus­tra­tions.

from The Arrival, illus­tra­tion copy­right Shaun Tan

Through inno­v­a­tive use of fan­ta­sy ele­ments and emo­tion­al speci­fici­ty, Shaun Tan has cre­at­ed a sophis­ti­cat­ed nar­ra­tive that feels whol­ly orig­i­nal and is itself a visu­al jour­ney.

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Mighty Jack

Mighty Jack and the Goblin KingWe are thrust into the midst of the action, which nev­er stops until the epi­logue. This is how Ben Hatke tells a sto­ry.

We don’t know what’s going on. There’s no set­up. Instead, we quick­ly learn that Jack is climb­ing some veg­e­ta­tive mat­ter to find the ogre who kid­napped his sis­ter Mad­dy and take her home. His friend, Lil­ly, no side­kick, is climb­ing along­side him.

The vil­lains of the piece are rats, giants, and that ogre. They have con­trol of a nexus point that exists out­side of time and space, a con­nect­ing link between worlds. It looks like the tow­er of a cas­tle built on an aster­oid. The place has lost its lus­ter because of the giants’ nefar­i­ous choic­es, among them the need to feed a human child to the machine that blocks the bridges between worlds. It’s sat­is­fy­ing to dis­cov­er these plot points through­out the sto­ry.

Jack and Lil­ly are split up when Lil­ly falls from the vine (a rat is respon­si­ble). Jack vows to come back for her but he is com­pelled to find Mad­dy.

This is not earth,” illus­tra­tion from Jack and the Mighty Gob­lin King by Ben Hatke

The adven­ture takes off in two direc­tions. Lil­ly is seri­ous­ly hurt by the rats … and saved by the gob­lins who inhab­it the low­er reach­es of the nexus point. The Gob­lin King demands that Lil­ly will be his bride. She has oth­er ideas. In the “trash from all worlds,” she finds a Shel­by Mus­tang. She will find a way to take it with her. Lil­ly is a hero in the truest sense of the word.

The gob­lins are the most endear­ing char­ac­ters in the book. They are fun­ny, resource­ful, knowl­edge­able, and they care for Lil­ly. Their lan­guage is not exact­ly Eng­lish and it suits them. Now we know how gob­lins com­mu­ni­cate.

There are unan­swered ques­tions. Why can’t Mad­dy talk? Where did the mag­ic seeds come from that give Jack and Lil­ly short bursts of need­ed pow­er? Why is Jack’s mother’s house being fore­closed? These are the intrigu­ing bits that encour­age the read­er to fill in the sto­ry, becom­ing one with the sto­ry­teller.

Hatke’s art­work is so much a part of the sto­ry that the book couldn’t be read out loud with­out show­ing the frames of the graph­ic nov­el. His brain cre­ates exot­ic set­tings that invite lin­ger­ing to absorb their odd­ness. His vil­lains are das­tard­ly, fear­some, invit­ing us to defeat them. The gob­lins are oth­er-world­ly but a lit­tle cud­dly. (Just a lit­tle.) The col­or palette is spacey where appro­pri­ate,  con­vinc­ing­ly sub­ter­ranean when we’re in the goblin’s habi­tat, and quite rich­ly appeal­ing when the veg­e­ta­tion trans­forms. And that Shel­by Mus­tang!

The book is filled with sur­pris­es. A turn of the page often brings an unex­pect­ed turn of events. Even the epi­logue, often used to wrap up a sto­ry and tell us about the future, leaves us with a  sense of urgency: what will hap­pen next?

There is a first book, Mighty Jack, which I have not read. It most like­ly cre­ates the world in which Lil­ly, Jack, Mad­dy, and Phe­lix the drag­on (!) live, but I’m very glad that a read­er doesn’t have to first read that book to enjoy this one. I always hat­ed going to my cousin Sig’s house, read­ing his com­ic books, nev­er know­ing where the sto­ries were com­ing from or how they would end because they were pub­lished episod­i­cal­ly. 

This is sto­ry­telling at its very best. Appeal­ing, fun, hold-your-breath sto­ry­telling. I could have revealed that this is a re-telling of the Jack and the Beanstalk sto­ry but it is so much more than that. Ben Hatke’s pow­ers enchant his read­ers once again.

(Please be advised that this might have a PG13 rat­ing because of some vio­lence and one swear word. You’ll know best if this fits for your fam­i­ly.)

Mighty Jack and the Gob­lin King
a graph­ic nov­el by Ben Hatke
col­or by Alex Camp­bell and Hilary Sycamore
pub­lished by First Sec­ond, 2017
ISBN 978−1−6267−226−68

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Telling a Story the Hard Way

Space Dumplinsby Vic­ki Palmquist

I’ve just fin­ished read­ing the graph­ic nov­el Space Dumplins by Craig Thomp­son, with col­or by Dave Stew­art (Graphix, 2015). I am over­whelmed by the work that went into this book. First off, it’s an engross­ing, turn-the-page sto­ry with an appeal­ing cast of char­ac­ters. As read­ers, we care about what will hap­pen. That’s a good start.

Now, imag­ine that you are sit­ting down with a pen­cil to sketch one of the spreads in this book. Per­haps you’ve picked the pages where Vio­let, our hero­ine, first gets a look at SHELL-TAR, the inte­ri­or of the space sta­tion. You start by draw­ing the intri­ca­cies of the gleam­ing steam­punk time clock and then you draw all of the activ­i­ty going on inside the trans­par­ent trans­port tubes, large enough to accom­mo­date per­son­al space­ships. Next you fill in the many habi­tats, the glob­u­lar trees, the peo­ple at the beach. Then you insert our cast of char­ac­ters into the scene along with the robot­ic Chaper­drone (a babysit­ter). Whew. That’s a lot of draw­ing for two pages.

Of course, you’re pro­vid­ing this as a back­drop for the fast-paced sto­ry of three new friends, quick-wit­ted, learn­ing to work as a team, doing their best to save the peo­ple they love and their cor­ner of the uni­verse. You’ve already writ­ten the sto­ry, the script, and worked through the sur­pris­es that will delight your read­ers, mak­ing it a tight and believ­able hero’s jour­ney set in the Mucky Way.

Vio­let, Zac­cha­eus, and Eliot are unlike­ly heroes except that Vio­let has a wel­com­ing heart, a brave out­look on adven­ture, and an opti­mism as big as out­er space. She can see qual­i­ties in her new friends that they can’t see them­selves. Eliot, the chick­en, is stu­dious, intro­vert­ed, wide­ly read, and some­what psy­chic. Zac­cha­eus, the last of the Lump­kins (well, almost the last, because space whales ate his plan­et) is chaot­ic, impul­sive, and ready for a fight. All three of the friends are good at prob­lem-solv­ing, espe­cial­ly when they work togeth­er. The mil­i­tary can’t defeat the space whales: they can only clean up after them. It’s these three who fig­ure out the true heart of the prob­lem.

Craig Thompson Space Dumplins ballpoint

from Craig Thompson’s web­site, copy­right Craig Thomp­son

Once you’ve sketched all of this, applied ball­point pen, then brushed ink, you ask some­one else to col­or every­thing in.  Togeth­er, you’re cre­at­ing a book full of these sto­ry-telling images, rich­ly col­ored, high­ly detailed, and ulti­mate­ly believ­able as a look at life that’s real­ly hap­pen­ing some­where “out there.”

The rest of the main cast of char­ac­ters include Violet’s par­ents, the reformed felon Gar and the fash­ion design­er Cera, Gar’s fish­ing bud­dies Mr. Tin­der and crew, Cera’s boss at the Fash­ion Fac­to­ry, Mas­ter Adam Arnold, and the most inven­tive space vehi­cles I’ve ever seen. Every being (they’re not all human) in this book has a unique look. No cook­ie-cut­ter, repet­i­tive char­ac­ters to save on draw­ing time.

It’s a movie set on paper, except that you’ve had to con­ceive of, write, draw, and col­or every bit of it. There are no cam­eras and crew to bring your vision to life. Exhaust­ed yet?

Even the end­pa­pers are atten­tion-riv­et­ing. The con­stel­la­tions fill the skies of Space Dumplins and they often make an appear­ance, remind­ing us that we share the same space even though the set­ting feels alien and won­drous.

early concept

ear­ly con­cept of space­ship, copy­right Craig Thomp­son

You know those kids who are con­stant­ly doo­dling in class? They’ll love this book. And the kids who stay up long past their bed­times try­ing to fin­ish a chap­ter? They’ll love this book. And the kids who don’t know what to read next but they don’t want it to be bor­ing? Yup, they’re gonna love it. Space Dumplins reads like a TV series, a movie, a video game, and a sol­id, excit­ing sto­ry all between book cov­ers. Bril­liant.

Asides:

Be sure to notice the homage to a num­ber of cul­tur­al icons in this book. H.A. Rey’s The Con­stel­la­tions? Strange Brew? Space­balls? And the real Trike (it exists!).

Be sure to read Craig Thompson’s answers to Five Ques­tions on The Book Rat’s blog. You’ll find out how long it took him to cre­ate Space Dumplins.

For a look at what Craig Thomp­son is work­ing on and where he’s appear­ing, vis­it his web­site.

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Books about Boxes

Box­es have many sto­ries to share, sto­ries to inspire, and sto­ries to help us learn and be cre­ative. Here are a few of the sto­ries that box­es have to tell. You might well expect to find books about cre­ative play and card­board box­es, but there are books for a range of young read­ers here and box­es comes in many shapes and col­ors.

 

365 Pen­guins

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jean-Luc Fro­men­tal
Hol­i­day House, 2012

A fam­i­ly find a pen­guin mys­te­ri­ous­ly deliv­ered in a box to their door every day of the year. At first the pen­guins are cute, but with every pass­ing day they pile up and they cause the fam­i­ly sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems. Who on earth is send­ing these crit­ters? This book holds math con­cepts and envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns with­in its sto­ry, which is quite fun. Ages 4 to 8.

Beryl's Box

 

Beryl’s Box

writ­ten by Lisa Tay­lor
Barron’s Juve­niles, 1993

When Pene­lope and Beryl must play togeth­er at Penelope’s house, Beryl isn’t inter­est­ed in Penelope’s plen­ti­ful toys. She wants to play in a card­board box, imag­in­ing all sorts of adven­tures. Pene­lope is intrigued and soon the girls become friends. Ages 3 to 6.

A Box Story  

Box Sto­ry

writ­ten by Ken­neth Kit Lamug
illus­trat­ed by Rab­ble Boy
Rab­ble­Box, 2011

The author and illus­tra­tor uses pen­cil draw­ings to con­vey all the ways in which a box is not just a box. Ages 3 to 7.

A Box Can Be Many Things  

A Box Can Be Many Things

writ­ten by Dana Meachen Rau
Children’s Press, 1997

An ear­ly read­er about a box that’s being thrown away and the two kids who res­cue it for their own adven­tures, slow­ly cut­ting the box up for the sup­plies they need, until there isn’t much left of the box. Ages 3 to 6

Boxes for Katje  

Box­es for Kat­je

writ­ten by Can­dace Flem­ing
illus­trat­ed by Sta­cy Dressen-McQueen
Far­rar, Straus & Giroux, 2003

A heart­warm­ing sto­ry about a com­mu­ni­ty in Indi­ana which, upon hear­ing about Holland’s strug­gles to find enough food, cloth­ing, and prac­ti­cal items after World War II, sends box­es of sup­plies to Olst, Hol­land. Ages 5 to 10.

Cardboard  

Card­board

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Doug Ten­Napel
GRAPHIX, 2012

In this graph­ic nov­el, Cam’s dad is feel­ing depressed and there isn’t a lot of mon­ey to buy Cam some­thing for his birth­day. He gives him a card­board box and togeth­er they work to cre­ate a man from the box. It mag­i­cal­ly comes to life and all is well until the neigh­bor­hood bul­ly strives to turn the card­board man to his evil pur­pos­es. Ages 10 and up.

Cardboard Box Book  

Card­board Box Book

writ­ten and cre­at­ed by Roger Prid­dy and Sarah Pow­ell
illus­trat­ed by Bar­bi Sido
Prid­dy Books, 2012

If you’re in need of ideas and tips for mak­ing your own card­board cre­ations, or even if you are full of ideas, you’ll be inspired by this book that helps you fig­ure out how to make some amaz­ing but sim­ple card­board con­trap­tions. All you need is sim­ple house­hold art sup­plies like a pen­cil and glue and scis­sors. And maybe a lit­tle paint. Ages 5 and up (with adult super­vi­sion).

Cardboard Creatures  

Card­board Crea­tures: Con­tem­po­rary Card­board Craft Projects for the Home, Cel­e­bra­tions & Gifts

writ­ten and cre­at­ed by Claude Jean­tet
David & Charles, 2014

What else can you do with card­board? Sculp­tures, of course. There are clever ani­mals to make here, designed by an archi­tect who has her own shop in Paris where she sells her intrigu­ing card­board art. You and your chil­dren can make these things, too! Ages 5 and up (with adult super­vi­sion)..

Christina Katerina and the Box  

Christi­na Kate­ri­na and the Box

writ­ten by Patri­cia Lee Gauch
illus­trat­ed by Doris Burns
Boyds Mills Press, 2012

When Christi­na Katerina’s fam­i­ly buys a new refrig­er­a­tor, her moth­er is excit­ed about the refrig­er­a­tor but Christi­na Kate­ri­na is excit­ed about the box. She can do all kinds of things with a box, includ­ing a cas­tle and a play­house. Ages 3 to 7.

Harry's Box  

Harry’s Box

writ­ten by Angela McAl­lis­ter
illus­trat­ed by Jen­ny Jones
Blooms­bury, 2005

When Har­ry and his mom come back from the gro­cery store, he grabs the box the gro­ceries came in and sets off for adven­ture with his dog, trav­el­ing the high seas, hid­ing from bears, and every­thing he can think of before he falls asleep to dream of more! Ages 3 to 7.

Henry's Freedom Box  

Henry’s Free­dom Box: a True Sto­ry of the Under­ground Rail­road

writ­ten by Ellen Levine
illus­trat­ed by Kadir Nel­son
Scholas­tic Press, 2007

This is the true sto­ry of Hen­ry Brown, a boy born into slav­ery who is forcibly sep­a­rat­ed from his moth­er to work in his owner’s fac­to­ry. As a man, his wife and three chil­dren are sold away from his life. He makes plans with oth­er abo­li­tion­ists and mails him­self in a box to free­dom in Philadel­phia. Ages 5 and up.

Meeow and the Big Box  

Mee­ow and the Big Box

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Sebastien Braun
Box­er Books, 2009

For the preschool set, this book about a cat who cre­ates a fire truck from a box is filled with bright col­ors and tex­tures, and just enough text to read aloud. There are sev­er­al more Mee­ow books. Ages 2 to 4.

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes  

My Cat Likes to Hide in Box­es

writ­ten by Eve Sut­ton
illus­trat­ed by Lyn­ley Dodd
Parent’s Mag­a­zine Press, 1974; Puf­fin, 2010

A rhyming text for begin­ning read­ers which also makes a good read-aloud, this dynam­ic duo tells the sto­ry of an ordi­nary cat who likes to hide in box­es while cats around the world do astound­ing things. Ages 3 to 7

Not a Box  

Not a Box

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Antoinette Por­tis
Harper­Collins, 2006

Nar­rat­ed by a rab­bit, this sto­ry of the many pos­si­bil­i­ties of a box (It’s NOT A BOX! Oops, sor­ry.) are drawn with a sim­ple line that inspires any­thing but sim­ple ideas. New York Times Best Illus­trat­ed Book. Ages 3 and up.

Roxaboxen  

Rox­abox­en

writ­ten by Alice McLer­ran
illus­trat­ed by Bar­bara Cooney
Lothrop, Lee & Shep­ard, 1991

A rhyming text for begin­ning read­ers which also makes a good read-Based on a true sto­ry from the author’s child­hood, the kids in Yuma, Ari­zona use found objects, but par­tic­u­lar­ly box­es, to cre­ate a city where they spend end­less hours play­ing and mak­ing up sto­ries and cre­at­ing mem­o­ries that will last a life­time. The book has inspired chil­dren around the world. There’s a park in Yuma to com­mem­o­rate the site of the orig­i­nal Rox­abox­en. Ages 4 to 7.

Secret Box  

Secret Box

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bar­bara Lehman
Houghton Mif­flin, 2011

There are secret mes­sages hid­den in secret box­es to be dis­cov­ered in secret places … a word­less book pro­vides beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed images with intri­cate details that pro­vide much to think and won­der about, ulti­mate­ly encour­ag­ing the read­er to cre­ate the sto­ry. There’s time trav­el, mag­ic, and puz­zles with­in this book. Good for ages 4 and up.

The Secret Box  

Secret Box

writ­ten by Whitak­er Ring­wald
Kather­ine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2014

When Jax Mal­one receives a gift in a box for her 12th birth­day, she and her friend Ethan soon dis­cov­er it’s not a gift but a cry for help from an unknown great-aunt. Set­ting off to solve the mys­tery of the box and pro­vide the request­ed help, the kids are soon on a wild, crazy, and dan­ger­ous road trip … a fast-paced tale and the begin­ning of a series of books. (The author’s name is a pseu­do­nym, by the way, a mys­tery in itself.) Ages 8 to 12.

Sitting in My Box  

Sit­ting in My Box

writ­ten by Dan Lil­le­gard
iilus­trat­ed by Jon Agee
Two Lions, 2010

From the safe­ty of a card­board box, a lit­tle boy reads a book about Wild Ani­mals and—behold!—they come to vis­it him. How many ani­mals can fit in the box? It’s a cumu­la­tive sto­ry and the word­ing makes it a good choice for a read-aloud. Ages 2 to 5.

Tibet Through the Red Box  

Tibet Through the Red Box

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Peter Sís
Green­wil­low, 1999

When the author was lit­tle, his father kept things inside a red box that his chil­dren were not allowed to touch. When the author is grown, he receives a let­ter from his father, telling him the red box is now his. The red, lac­quered box holds secrets about his fathere’s expe­ri­ences in the 1950s when he was draft­ed into the Czecho­slo­va­kian army and sent to Chi­na to teach film­mak­ing. At the time, Czechoslo­vokia is a secre­tive coun­try behind the Iron Cur­tain. The father is soon lost in Tibet for two years, where his adven­tures must be kept secret but are shared with his son. The book’s illus­tra­tions are inspired by Tibetan art. Calde­cott Hon­or Book, Boston Globe Horn Book Award. Ages 7 and up.

What to Do with a Box  

What To Do With a Box

writ­ten by Jane Yolen
illus­trat­ed by Chris She­ban
Cre­ative Edi­tions, 2016

What can’t you do with a box? If you give a child a box, who can tell what will hap­pen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expe­di­tion. The most won­der­ful thing is its seem­ing­ly end­less capac­i­ty for mag­i­cal adven­ture. Read this out loud to your favorite kids and watch the ideas light up their eyes. Ages 4 to 7.

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My New Hero

I am a fan of super­hero comics. After read­ing about talk­ing ducks, pre­co­cious teens at Riverdale High, and an equal­ly pre­co­cious rich kid, I want­ed some­thing with a real sto­ry, not a sit­u­a­tion. I wasn’t allowed to buy com­ic books, so I had to rely on the kind­ness of cousins. What­ev­er I could scrounge up […]

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