cover image Dora's Box

Dora's Box

Ann Campbell, Anne J. Campbell. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-679-87642-7

Though rooted in a familiar myth, this elegant book reaches into fresh terrain and features imaginatively stylized paintings by a first-time illustrator. A beautiful witch grants the first wish of a man and woman who have released her from a hunter's trap: she will send them the child they long for. But their other requests--that their daughter be protected from evil and sadness and be loved by all--the sorceress can't guarantee. To help ensure the first, she gives the couple a box, along with words of advice and warning: ""Put in this box tokens of everything that is evil or sad in the world, and your daughter will never know them. If she opens the box, however, all your work will be undone."" When the parents name the newborn Pandora, the future actions of the child, and their consequences, seem a foregone conclusion. At the end, however, Campbell offers several intriguing twists (although some youngsters may find them puzzling). Chiefly, the witch returns to inform Dora's parents that, although Dora has made herself vulnerable to the evil and sadness previously contained in the box, knowledge of both will bring her compassion, and ""to be loved by all, she must have compassion."" Negrin's dramatic paintings creatively manipulate perspective, light and texture, but they are perhaps most distinctive for their ethereal compositions. Figures are somehow both earthy and otherworldly, a combination that underscores the ambiance of Campbell's mellifluous narrative. Ages 5-8. (July)