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.
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