Top critical review
12 people found this helpful
Intriguing, but not convincing and more than a little creepy
on April 25, 2011
This entirely wordless book opens with a picture of a boy opening a floorboard to reveal a hidden box. Then we see a building in the middle of open farmland. The presence of uniformed boys exercising suggests the building is an orphanage. A gazebo stands behind the house within a fenced yard.
The next page shows the passage of considerable time as the area is now rather built-up. But the orphanage and the gazebo still stand, and boys still exercise in the yard.
Then more time has passed and the area is now in a large city. The orphanage is squeezed between large buildings and the yard has been paved over. Boys play basketball in the paved yard.
Next, three boys are shown upstairs in the bedroom of the orphanage. They discover the loose floorboard and the box, which contains pictures that lead them from the gazebo, through a tunnel, to an amusement park on a pier. The boys follow the clues, locate the tunnel and come out at the pier. When they get to the amusement park, the boy in the original picture opens a door for them and they find themselves in a room with a bunch of kids who are, presumably, the previous residents of the orphanage. Have they all died and this is orphanage heaven? We aren't given any explanation, but it's pretty creepy.
Then we skip ahead yet again. We see two modern-looking children in the orphanage bedroom, and then we see the outside of the orphanage, no even more densely packed in among even bigger skyscrapers. The two children are following the same path to the amusement park, and the last we see of them, they are standing at the entrance to the tunnel.
A note about the author tells us: ""The Secret Box" was inspired when [Barbara Lehman] wondered, What if a child's treasure box from the past could provide even more of a connection between people, places, and time." Okay, I get that part, but it still doesn't make sense. At the time the original boy hides the box, there is clearly no tunnel. And in such an undeveloped, remote location, how could there be an amusement park? Clearly the amusement park is not meant to be real, at least not in this world. Because the amusement park is full of all the former orphanage inhabitants, and because we never see any of the boys return, it seems that the amusement park is meant to represent, what, death? Quite bizarre and unsettling for a children's book aimed at preschoolers. My own four-and-a-half-year-old definitely did not like it, maybe older kids will