Beware of books about good role models.
Kids hate it when their parents say, “I spend a fortune on a toy, and all the kids want to do is play with the box!” It sounds like an excuse to stop buying toys. But a box is still pretty terrific. In this book, Joey uses a carton as a spaceship and a fort. The problem is that the box takes up his entire room. When he tries to store it under the bed, it lifts the bedframe a yard into the air. (Byrne’s illustration is hilarious. Joey looks equally delighted and terrified.) Inspired by a food drive at the supermarket, he decides to turn the box into a gigantic donation bin and collect food for the needy. This is touching, but not every reader will find it convincing. Joey sounds a bit mature and formal for a small child: “Please don’t recycle my box yet….I want to collect food for hungry people—just like at the grocery store.” Lots of children’s books are propaganda (even—perhaps especially—Green Eggs and Ham), but the moral lesson in this book is more than a little heavy-handed.
Joey would be more sympathetic if he didn’t sound like an ad. He’s about as believable as a parent who says, “My child would rather have a box than a toy.” (Picture book. 4-8)