|Image from BarbaraLehmanBooks.com|
The illustrations in this small, square book are bright and bold. Outlined in thick black lines, Lehman’s illustrations are detailed, yet stylistically simple. The children in the book are diverse with a variety of skin colors and hair types/styles. Lehman does not denote a specific year for each illustration, but she includes clues to the approximate time period, such as modes of transportation, clothing, and technology, such as telephone lines, traffic lights, and cable antennas. Spoiler Alert: The conclusion is a bit fantastical. Somehow all the children who have ever followed the clues in the secret box are at the final destination and they are still young, even the boy who originally hid the box so many years ago. Although this time-bending ending doesn’t fit with the realistic depiction of the city, it does emphasis the timelessness of the secret box. Make sure to look at the endpapers for a sneak preview of the contents in the secret box.
Check out the suggestions for using this book with K-8 on the Classroom Bookshelf blog. I especially like the idea of having kids illustrate the items they would hide in a secret box and the discussion questions about the open ending of the book.
For preschool kids, pair this book with other titles that focus on maps and finding treasure, such as The Once Upon a Time Map Book and Roxaboxen.
Tie this in with middle grade books for older kids that have maps on the endpapers, use your favorite novel with a map or use a classic, such as The Phantom Tollbooth or The Wonderful Wizard ofOz.
Have a wordless book themed storytime. Try pairing it with one of Lehman’s other wordless books, Sector 7 (or one of David Wiesner’s other books), The Adventures of Polo, Shadow (or one of Suzy Lee’s other titles) or Where’s Walrus?
Check at your local library to see if you can find old maps of your city. Have kids compare the maps from different time periods. What landmarks are still standing? Can you find pictures of the landmark in different time periods and compare them?
For a glimpse of the illustrations inside this book, check out the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog.