“What was that box doing there in the middle of the forest? It was a mystery.”
It’s not every day that a strange box, large enough for someone to hide in, arrives in the woods. And it has the local animals wondering from the moment they wake. They are full of questions, and then anticipation, once they realize someone really is in the box.
The someone in the box is reluctant to reveal themselves, although this doesn’t stop the animals from trying. Together, they put on a show and throw a party; individually, they make some beautiful gestures of kindness towards the box. None have the desired effect. Needless to say, the someone does eventually venture out. I won’t spoil the fun by sharing its identity here, but eagle-eyed readers will relish the clever visual clues provided by illustrator Paolo Proietti from the outset!
The Box is a picture book aimed at children ages 4-8. The story is simple; author Isabella Paglia’s exploration of the animals’ thoughts and actions with regards to the mysterious box is masterful. Their natural interest and curiosity prompt them to ask about the box (How did it arrive? When?) Although they are clearly keen to find out what is inside, the animals demonstrate respect, patience and understanding. They don’t force the unknown someone out of the box; instead, they try different ways to encourage them out when they are ready.
Beautifully illustrated in soft pastels, The Box is a delightful read that also gently demonstrates to readers the many factors to consider when welcoming someone to a new environment.
Oh, and if you like guess-the-picture-book-from-the-emojis games, the end pages with their sketched animal headshots (and the box) show The Box to be a simply perfect candidate!
Written by Isabella Paglia
Illustrated by Paolo Proietti
Translated from Italian by Laura Watkinson
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022
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Laura Taylor is the founder of world children’s literature blog Planet Picture Book. She is a small business copywriter, NAATI-certified translator of French into English and member of AUSIT. When she is not writing, she is reading, and chasing after her two young children. She tweets @plapibo and posts at www.planetpicturebook.com