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The Big Box Paperback – September 3, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If Pulitzer Prize-winning Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and her son Slade hope to reach children with their rhyming message of personal freedom and individuality, they may have missed the mark. But if even a few excessively controlling grownups learn to "let children be children," this big, colorful picture book might serve its purpose after all. Patty, Mickey, and Liza Sue live in a big brown box (locked from the inside) with all the amenities a modern child dreams of: TV, Barbie, pizza, Spice Girls T-shirts, beanbag chairs, and Pepsi. All this, but no liberty. They've been placed in this box because the adults in their lives believe "those kids can't handle their freedom." They have too much fun in school, sing when they should be studying, feed honey to the bees, and play handball where they shouldn't. Parents, neighbors, and teachers are uncomfortable with these irrepressible children, and hope to control them with strict boundaries. Meanwhile, the younger-yet-wiser children just want the freedom to become themselves: "Even sparrows scream/ And rabbits hop/ And beavers chew trees when they need 'em./ I don't mean to be rude: I want to be nice,/ But I'd like to hang on to my freedom."

Giselle Potter's lovely, childlike paintings create an atmosphere of naïve bewilderment, as the plaintive children wail, over and over, "If freedom is handled just your way/ Then it's not my freedom or free." Morrison's first foray into children's literature is a puzzling, thickly ironic book that asks more questions than it answers. Even as a celebration of the unfettered exuberance of children in the face of societal oppression, a lighter touch would have done wonders. (Click to see a sample spread. Text copyright 1999 by Toni Morrison. Illustrations copyright 1999 by Giselle Potter. With permission of Jump at the Sun, Hyperion Books for Children.) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In what PW called "a social commentary on childhood," two girls and a boy live in a "big brown box" with a door that has "three big locks"; they have been sent there by adults who think they "can't handle their freedom." Ages 8-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Jump At The Sun (July 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786812915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786812912
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 0.2 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,749,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The story seems to hit home, but hit hard. As an African American psychologist, who works in schools, I think that the 8-12 year old audience could be very disturbed by the imagery of being locked away, for mere exhuberance. But the story also oversimplifies the nature of emotional disturbances and behavior disorders, for which intervention is not just an adult world's attempt at control and conformity. If children can participate in making decisions in their life, and follow through responsibly, to their community, then their freedom is often their own. I think the political commentary is really directed at adults, and thus the target audience should not be children.
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Format: Hardcover
Excellent work as one might have expected, but it is one that deals with a controversial issue. The story deals with the issue of freedom narrating the tale of three children who were put in a big box because they did not meet the rules of the adults. When those children are in the box, they receive a lot of nice things from their parents, but the drawings show their faces to be passive and lacking something. The adults are always described to "love very much" these children, but they use this love to take away the kids' freedom which "they cannot handle."
The story ends with the sarcastic question "who says they cannot handle their freedom?" accompanied with a drawing of the three children breaking out of the box.
I can imagine the debate this story is going to create, for, on the surface, it deals with the sensitive issue of how much freedom should be granted to children, and whether they are illegible to make some or all decisions. The story kind of encourages kids to rebel against the adults who represent oppression in this story, and this might be problematic for some people. The story of course implies a much more serious message than the simple one introduced through the words and rhymes. The general concept of oppression is the main theme here. The drawings help illustrate this message..again this might be very problematic for people.
I personally loved the fact that it made me uncertain of how to introduce the story to my kids and how to discuss it with them. I am not that afraid to be uncertain in front of them any more. I show them, sometimes, that I am unable to decide about things or actually unable to judge things, and this takes a big load off my back. Hay, finally a not very boring children's story....
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful story for both children and adults. It tells of three children that get into trouble in the adult world and are placed in a big brown box. The children are simply displaying typical childish actions, yet are misunderstood by their parents. Very authentic for children to understand.
I have shared this book in my fourth grade classroom for the past three years. Each time I share it the students seem to understand the message and what it means to them in their own way. Although some think that this story is inappropriate for children I feel that it is wonderful for all ages. Don't underestimate what children can understand and take away from good literature. This can be a great piece of literature to use to discuss the idea of freedom with children.
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Format: Hardcover
As a twenty-something first grade teacher reading this book, I personally found Morrison's writing to be very thought-provoking and realistic in the actual portrayal of a child's mis-understanding of the purpose of rules which govern their very pre-teen existence. The metaphorical dipictions of how the three "troubled" characters react to the reasoning behind what seem to be unnecessary and consticting regulations draw me deeper into the story as the pages turn. The somber and confused response of each child to the various forms of behavioral intervention (before it may be just too late) by the adults makes me sympathize and reminisce about simlar circumstances of my childhood. I even began to feel somewhat sorry for these characters, and truthfully a bit melancholy. However, for the nine to eleven year old reader, for whom this book is recommended, I find the underlying concepts to be perhaps a little too difficult to grasp. The pictures are wonderful, and the lyrical flow make the story very fluid and easy to read. But, I can not fail to stress the sophistication of the meaning behind the written words. I would definitely recommend The Big Box to a friend who can look beyond the facade of sentences and words used to tell a story. .....Or, maybe some of the disciplinary bodies of my childhood or the cruel, wicked, just plain mean teachers who I call co-workers! - Thomas Michael Welch, Jr., Los Angeles, CA
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Format: Hardcover
From the instant I began to read this book, I knew it was perfect for the special education world. The books main theme of being "locked" up and having basic freedoms taken away, is what many special education students often feel. I work with emotionally disturbed students and the impact made by the children in the book made me feel a bit of what my students often do. Though the book is for a higher age level, the book can be read to and explained to a much younger group of children. It is always a healthy experience to talk about any idea or feeling, and this is a perfect example! The feeling of having your freedoms taken away because you are not like everyone else and do not conform to anyone's image! Thank you Toni and Slade Morrison for this wonderful book!
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