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THE SECRET BOX by Barbara Lehman Kirkus Star


by Barbara Lehman and illustrated by Barbara Lehman

Pub Date: March 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-23868-5
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Once again, Caldecott Honoree Lehman (The Red Book, 2004) presents surprising visuals that playfully and mysteriously connect children across space and time. In the top floor of what seems an orphanage, amid rows of empty beds, a bespectacled boy hides a saltwater-taffy box under a floorboard.  The box, readers know, holds photos, a postcard, tokens, ticket stubs and a map fragment, with a route sketched in red-penciled arrows. Double-page spreads of watercolor and gouache depict decades of transformation, as a rural landscape becomes a burgeoning city crowding out the sky. Two groups of children, separated by generations, discover the box of treasures, successively locating the cistern where the map quest begins and the stream—now buried in a brick-lined culvert—leading to the lovely, colorful Seahorse Pier. The author beckons readers, with the first trio, into a turreted room at the pier, where a crowd of kids—including the bespectacled lad who began the tale—enjoys a living space with hammocks, toys, food—all that the sere orphanage ward lacked. Ending with a modern boy and girl contemplating the culvert’s entrance, she invites readers (her wordless pictures clearly beg to be read, pored over) to feel the tenuous bonds of child life loosen. Wonderful! (Picture book. 4-8)