Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big Box for Ben

I am often amazed at wonderful toys and craft tools today (iPad included), many of which certainly spark and cultivate children’s imagination, creativity, and critical thinking. On the other hand, I wonder if children’s imagination is somewhat manufactured or confined by those educational/fun/creativity boosting toys and crafts. In an abundance of toys and crafts (and yes, iPad included), children may not have a chance to exercise their full capacity of creativity and imagination.

My not-yet-four year old friend loves playing with twigs and sticks as much as he loves playing with Lego toys. Out of twigs, we make a ladder, a flag pole, and a mast for a boat. Of course, empty cardboard boxes are always one of his favorites. It turns into a cave where his miniature dinosaurs have lived(hidden) for many years, into simply a hide-and-seek place, or into a firetruck that he is in charge of. He even made a space shuttle out of packaging foam. Nothing goes to waste; everything is recycled into fun toys. With cardboard boxes, my friend's world expands as far as he wants it to, constructing his own adventurous narrative. So does our little friend Ben.

Deborah Bruss's Big Box for Ben is simple, yet adorable story that young children will immediately identify with, even be inspired by! Ben has a big box. It’s a simple, ordinary cardboard box. But as Ben and his dog, Wags unfold their journey, the box become as many things as Ben imagines: it turns into a race car; a boat that he can paddle; a top of a mountain where he almost reaches the sky; the back of an elephant he is proudly riding on. And at the end, it turns into a cozy place where Ben and Wags fall asleep hugging each other after their extraordinary adventure. A simple, rhythmical text fits perfectly to read aloud with a young child, and Tomek Bogacki's illustrations creates Ben's dog, Wags as a silly companion that brings smiles to young readers. Big Box for Ben cheerfully articulates that children create their own amazement out of ordinary things only geared by their powerful imagination. Toys and craft tools may be wonderful, but cardboard boxes are inspiring. Join Deborah Bruss for a reading, signing, and play-date at Barnes and Noble in Manchester, NH, on May 7th (from 11 to 1:00). Of course, there will be plenty of boxes for the kids to play in (and with).

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