January 2007

Reading outside the box

illustrated by Antoinette Portis
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2007 Geisel Honor Book

Remember that feeling when you first held Harold and the Purple Crayon in your lap? Something magical was going on the simplest line drawings were gracefully transformed through the imagination of dear Harold. I am not positive that Antoinette Portis ever read the Crockett Johnson classic, but her little rabbit would certainly have appreciated Harold's imagination. Perhaps Harold and little rabbit could have been playmates.

Portis' deceptively simple tale begins on the title page with the unnamed bunny looking longingly at part of a rectangle. Dragging and pushing it onto the first page of the book, the rabbit stares directly at the reader and hears the unspoken question on the reader's mind, Why are you sitting in a box? At this point, I can almost hear a parent gently prodding a young listener, Why do you think the rabbit is sitting in the box? and see the listener slow down and wonder. The reward is provided when the page is turned. No longer is the page a dull, cardboard brown. It is racecar red and the rabbit answers simply, It is not a box. The illustration shows the rabbit in a smart red sports car, ears blown by the wind, eyes protected by goggles. Oh, that's what's going on here! The question returns each time the little rabbit changes his position. And the answer is always the same. The rabbit's imagination takes the reader to many new places, as the box becomes, in turn, a mountain peak, an apartment on fire and a robot. But remember, It's NOT NOT NOT NOT a box!

A celebration of imagination, humor and the magic of a cardboard box, this is a book with universal appeal for young readers and the earliest lap listeners. With its pleasing nostalgic feel, Not a Box is an instant classic.


Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher in Nashville.

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Not a Box

Not a Box

illustrated by Antoinette Portis
ISBN 9780061123221

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