big box little box

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 |
Are you subscribed to any bookish newsletters? I get a couple of publishing industry emails every day, and one of my recent favorites is Book Riot’s The Kids Are Alright, which is focused on children’s books. It’s my go-to for picture book new releases. Annnnnd… it’s how I heard about Big Box Little Box, by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Edward Underwood.

big box little box by caryl hart, illustrated by edward underwood cover
Big box, little box
Hey, that's not a bed box.
My box, your box,
Snore box

How many ways can a cat interact with a box? This cat will entrance young readers as it investigates every box it can – and makes a mouse friend along the way.

With bright, bold illustrations from Edward Underwood, this is a striking and witty book for children and adults alike. Fans of Chris Haughton, Jon Klassen and Sophy Henn will love it.

In Big Box Little Box a cat discovers the world of boxes – in all shapes and sizes. And then in one of the boxes it discovers… a mouse?! After a long chase, the two end up unlikely friends. This picture book is a celebration of contrasts, textures, and playfulness, and will please very young readers as they learn to classify the world.

While for the most part the book is concerned with identifying shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, states, uses, emotions, and actions, it also has its funny, surprising moments (as any successful picture book should!). Upon reaching the end it may feel as if there hasn’t been a single full sentence – and that’s because the point is more about exclamation! and identification! In other words, it’s not well suited for group storytime. Too many lists and phrases that hang by themselves.

That isn’t to say that it’s not enjoyable, because it is. The large pages, the visual-text connection, and the concrete ideas presented in a quirky way will likely make it a favorite. Just a one-on-one reading sort of favorite, if you know what I mean.

Author Hart juxtaposes sizes, shapes, and colors in the text, and illustrator Underwood skillfully renders their equivalent in the art with an eye to pleasing design. There are fun textures and layers throughout, with primary colors and simple shapes (after all, boxes!). This minimalism begs to be paired with a construction paper art project – I can imagine the ripped paper edges now!

This is the sort of smart-looking book that an adult will pick up off the coffee table to page through, as well as the kid (I know this from experience). I’d pair it with Not a Box, and other picture books that encourage imagination and creativity for the very young.

Recommended for: readers ages 2-5, especially those who love cats and/or identifying shapes, colors, and so on.

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