A curious fox and an ensemble of animals speculate about what is inside a festive box.
White backgrounds on every page provide a focusing contrast to the colorful animals and the mysterious blue gift box. Illustrations are mixed media with hints of texture—a snake is filled in with what appears to be a blue, cable-knit sweater, while a peacock is composed of a photo patchwork of realistic feathers. Each spread introduces an animal, who guesses at the box’s contents or utters a playful phrase, with some text set in a color that matches the animal’s. Rhyming language introduces social-emotional concepts such as “nervous,” “grumpy,” and “proud.” These vocabulary words are emphasized by sharing the texture used in creating the animal. Cartoony facial expressions on the animals might seem engaging to some but contradictory to others. For example, the slightly uneven pop eyes and resulting expressions of the “rude” giraffe and “cheerful” duck are incredibly similar. Before the box is finally opened, a wordless verso focuses readers’ attention on the box on recto, the only visual, and builds anticipation. Quick gratification is delivered: “ ‘It’s a cake!’ said the delighted snake.” The whole crew of animals gathers around in an unnamed celebration—making this book appropriate for discussing myriad milestones with children.
There’s a lot of learning packed into this little book, making it adaptable to many settings. (Picture book. 2-7)