Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, March 4, 2016

Cardboard Capers

Children and children at heart go hand in hand with boxes.  When they look at one they see more than a container, they see endless potential.  To them it's more valuable empty than full, despite the worth of possible contents.

Almost six months ago nearly everything I owned was placed into a box.  The unpacking to this day continues.  Load after load of cardboard has been taken to recycling.  Each time the tape is removed and the box is folded for ease of transport, a part of me says no.  This can certainly be used for something else.

Depending on the size and shape and with a shift in perspective and a pinch of creativity something simple can become something marvelous.  What To Do With A Box (Creative Editions, an imprint of The Creative Company, March 8, 2016) written by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Chris Sheban is an exploration of inventiveness.  It's time to imagine.


You can open it more than once.  If you seek shelter inside with something to read, it's lined with shelves.  It's a book nook within a larger whole.  If you're more than a little wealthy, possibly royalty, it's a lavish residence.

Quick!  With the right lock and key a safe haven can be accessed in the nick of time.  Hosting a time honored tradition with a bevy of beloved friends may be your preference.  Resting at the seashore and creating a flying feathered friend are all welcome wonders within the confines of a box.

If you crave the peace of a woodland glen and a gentle breeze, this can be done with ease.  If you have a need for speed, start your engines.  If you long to gaze upward at the Eiffel Tower, host your sails.

A box is where dreams can come true.  No wand is necessary to call forth enchantment.  You only need an open mind; one willing to think "outside the box."

Two words and an exclamation point reflect most people's thoughts when seeing a box.  Jane Yolen brings us together in a universally shared emotion.  Her rhyming lines come in threes, a pair or a single sentence.  It's all about placement, pacing and the use of parentheses. Here is another single sentence.  What you do think will follow?

AND SKY,  ...

Even though the front and back of the dust jacket are two separate images, they blend well across the spine. We are introduced to the three main characters, a boy and a girl and their dog, as they peek through the opening in a newly discovered box.  Their expressions already give hints as to their personalities.  To the left, on the back, the dog, as dogs will do, is carefully sniffing the box.  The ISBN has been strategically placed as part of the box.  The book case is a brilliant blend of two interior visuals and a third piece of a box.

A deep rich chocolate brown is used for the opening and closing endpapers perhaps to signify the interior of a closed box.  The text for the title page, verso and opening narrative page is placed on faded pieces of a box.  The first illustration is identical to that placed on the back of the dust jacket.

The layout, design and illustrations by Chris Sheban are fabulously fun.  He has rendered all the elements of his images on cardboard pieces filling each picture with texture.  You can almost smell the cardboard.  His pictures glow from a light color, perhaps white, used to highlight many of the items in his images.

Hints of humor appear in many of his illustrations.  When the girl opens the box lowering the flap, the dog is nearly covered.  He is peeking out, head and flat paws together.  As the boy rests, using a beach ball as a pillow, within the box, the girl, her head barely visible, is pouring either milk or white paint from a glass on top of him.

Sheban alters his perspective bringing us along to reside with the characters inside the box or stepping back, allowing us to see a grander view.  His illustrations sing with life; three boxes race along a track and the dog's ears flap in the wind as a box soars past clouds.  An ingenious conclusion; a fixed reality will leave readers smiling and reaching for the nearest box.

One of my many favorite images spans across two pages.  On the left is a box piece bearing only the two word text.  To the right on a continuation of the cardboard, Sheban has drawn a scene from the girl's bedroom at night.  She and the dog are cozily sitting inside the box, looking outside the window at a star studded sky.  Next to them is a small table with a lamp on top.  I can't think of a better way to end a day.

What To Do With A Box written by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Chris Sheban is a delightful rhythmic look at the blend of play and imagination.  I predict you won't even get to the end of the book before children will be calling out to you all the things they've done with boxes.  Wouldn't it be fun to have some handy to extend the story time?  And adults...release your inner child...you know you want to.

To learn more about Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  If you go to The Creative Company website you can view interior pages.  Chris Sheban has illustrated many book covers.  I think you will find this interview at James Preller's site, An Interview with Chris Sheban: Illustrating Book Covers, from Rough Sketch to Final, very interesting.

You might want to pair this title with The Cardboard Box Book St. Martin's Press, LLC, July 15, 2014) by Roger Priddy and Sarah Powell, illustrations by Barbi Sido, crafts designed and made by Bethany Side and photography by Dan Pangbourne.  There are seventeen different creative projects along with an introduction, items needed and suggestions of what to look for in boxes.  At the end of the book is a large envelope filled with templates.  You can view eight interior illustrations at the publisher's website.

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