When it comes to books authored and illustrated by Barbara Lehman, a picture really is worth a thousand words. This Caldecott Honor winner (2005, The Red Book) who specializes in detail that stretches our imaginations using her signature watercolor, gouache and ink, has given us another wordless marvel, The Secret Box. With Lehman its the whole package; the combined visual of book jacket, book cover and endpapers invite readers to embark on another adventure.
She opens with a young boy from days past placing a pale blue box beneath a floor board. In subsequent pages she pans back to reveal a dwelling, an orphanage, in a rural setting. As time passes progress in the form of encroaching architecture, streetcars, roads and sidewalks surrounds the tall yellow building. But one day three boys discover that floorboard and the box of treasures it holds: four old sepia tone photographs, a torn map with a red line leading to a star, torn tickets, an old seahorse-admit-one coin and a postcard from Seahorse Pier. Readers follow these three as they piece the mementos together to bring their present to the past. The ah-ha moment comes though when two other children discover the hidden box; children from our time. The gift of this tale is that it never ends, giving hope for children that might need it the most.
I love this book for its sheer enchantment and also for the possibilities it offers for discussion among parents and children and for children and their teachers.