Full of mischief, the book's simple line drawings open up a world of imagination, humor and interactivity that make it a superb introduction to children's literature.
The New York Times
A child can have as much fun with a box as with the toy packaged in it. So when a rabbit imagines a box to be a burning building that he heroically douses with a fire hose and a rocket that he pilots to outer space, children will relate. This gently humorous book celebrates the ingenuity of kids, whose games of make-believe can spin magic out of the simplest materials. (ages 3 to 6)
The February 2007 issue of Child magazine
Sometimes the best toys are improvised, according to this celebration of the humble cardboard box. Packaged in a plain brown jacket that resembles a paper bag (another item with vast potential), this minimalist book features a rabbit-child, simply drawn in a heavy black line. In the first spread, designed in neutral black, white and tan, the rabbit's head peeks out of a rectangle. An offstage voice asks, "Why are you sitting in a box?" When the page turns, the rabbit answers, "It's not a box." A touch of color comes into the image. The empty white background is tinted pale yellow, and a thick red line traces a racecar over the basic black box shape, revealing what the rabbit imagines. By the time the skeptical voice inquires, "Now you're wearing a box?," readers know to expect a playful transformation in the next spread. "This is not a box," replies the rabbit, as a red robot suit is superimposed over the initial drawing. The teasing questions challenge the young rabbit, who demonstrates that a box can serve as a pirate-ship crow's nest, a hot-air balloon basket and a rocket. Readers won't abandon their battery-charged plastic toys, but they might join in a game of reimagining everyday objects. Most profitably, Portis reminds everyone (especially her adult audience) that creativity doesn't require complicated set-ups. Ages 6 mos.-6 yrs. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Sometimes the best toy a child can have is a simple box. So when our rabbit hero is asked why he is sitting in a box, his obvious reply is that it's not a box. And on page spread after page spread, we can see the many things the box can become in his imagination, from racing car or house on fire, to robot or rocket ship. This appeal to a child's sense of make-believe is direct, without fussy distracting details or a cacophony of colors. Black marker-like outlines are all it takes to visualize a fire hose or mountain top. Minimum colors are added for depicting his imaginary adventures, while all the questioner can see is the outline of box and bunny. The jacketless cover is colored and textured like a cardboard box, with "Net Wt. 11.5 oz." printed next to the author's name on the front, and "This Side Up" on the back.
School Library Journal
In bold, unornamented line drawings of a rabbit and a box, the author-illustrator offers a paean to the time-honored imaginative play of young children who can turn a cardboard box into whatever their creativity can conjure. Through a series of paired questions and answers, the rabbit is queried about why he is sitting in, standing on, spraying, or wearing a box. Each time, he insists, "It's not a box!" and the opposite page reveals the many things a small child's pretending can make of one: a race car, a mountain, a burning building, a robot. One important caveat: the younger end of the intended audience is both literal and concrete in their approach to this material. The box itself, drawn as a one-dimensional rectangle, will be perceived by preschoolers to be flat and not readily understood as three-dimensional. Furthermore, those children are likely to interpret the "box's" transformation to be "magic," while five- and six-year-olds are able to make the cognitive conversion from flat rectangle to three-dimensional box and to understand that the transformation has been made by the rabbit's own imagination. Both audiences will enjoy the participatory aspect of identifying each of the rabbit's new inventions. Knowledgeable adults will bring along a large box to aid in understanding and to encourage even more ideas and play.
Kate McClellandCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Dedicated "to children everywhere sitting in cardboard boxes," this elemental debut depicts a bunny with big, looping ears demonstrating to a rather thick, unseen questioner ("Are you still standing around in that box?") that what might look like an ordinary carton is actually a race car, a mountain, a burning building, a spaceship or anything else the imagination might dream up. Portis pairs each question and increasingly emphatic response with a playscape of Crockett Johnson-style simplicity, digitally drawn with single red and black lines against generally pale color fields. Appropriately bound in brown paper, this makes its profound point more directly than such like-themed tales as Marisabina Russo's Big Brown Box (2000) or Dana Kessimakis Smith's Brave Spaceboy (2005). (Picture book. 5-7)