cover image Not a Box

Not a Box

Antoinette Portis, Author, Antoinette Portis, Illustrator . HarperCollins $12.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-112322-1

Sometimes the best toys are improvised, according to this celebration of the humble cardboard box. Packaged in a plain brown jacket that resembles a paper bag (another item with vast potential), this minimalist book features a rabbit-child, simply drawn in a heavy black line. In the first spread, designed in neutral black, white and tan, the rabbit's head peeks out of a rectangle. An offstage voice asks, "Why are you sitting in a box?" When the page turns, the rabbit answers, "It's not a box." A touch of color comes into the image. The empty white background is tinted pale yellow, and a thick red line traces a racecar over the basic black box shape, revealing what the rabbit imagines. By the time the skeptical voice inquires, "Now you're wearing a box?," readers know to expect a playful transformation in the next spread. "This is not a box," replies the rabbit, as a red robot suit is superimposed over the initial drawing. The teasing questions challenge the young rabbit, who demonstrates that a box can serve as a pirate-ship crow's nest, a hot-air balloon basket and a rocket. Readers won't abandon their battery-charged plastic toys, but they might join in a game of reimagining everyday objects. Most profitably, Portis reminds everyone (especially her adult audience) that creativity doesn't require complicated set-ups. Ages 6 mos.-6 yrs. (Jan.)