Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Max's Box - Brian Wray (Illus. Shiloh Penfield)

Max's Box: Letting Go of Negative Feelings: Wray, Brian, Penfield ...
Summary: Max's parents give him a very special gift; a tiny box that will hold everything.  After putting in his beloved firetruck and fluffy stuffed dog, Max discovers that the Box grows after each item is added.  But that's not all -- Max's box also holds his feelings.  When Max is angry, the anger goes straight into the box.  With each feeling it stores, the larger it grows, and the larger the Box grows, the harder it is for Max to do anything.  Before long, Max's Box is so big, it holds him back from enjoying regular kid activities, like riding his bike or climbing trees.  Eventually, with some very special help and a lot of imagination, Max is able to turn the Box into something beautiful and let it go.

(Summary from book flap - Image from amazon.com - This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review:  Max has a box.  In it, he puts his favorite ball, his pirate ship, his stuffed dog, and his lucky red truck and with each toy his box grows in size.  However, the box doesn't only hold toys; it holds his emotions too.  Max's anger, hurt, frustration, embarrassment, sadness and worry all go inside and the box continues to expand.  When the Box too big, Max insists he can still carry it on his own, but eventually it becomes harder and harder to enjoy everyday activities.  After all, you can't climb a tree or go swimming with a giant box tied to your back.  One day a beautiful red ladybug lands on his box and it gives Max hope -- and an idea.  He draws a balloon on his box and invites others to do the same.  With each balloon, the box feels a little bit lighter until it begins to float.  Eventually Max is able to acknowledge his negative emotions and let them go.

I loved the visual image of a box getting bigger and heavier as we pack stuff in it, and it would certainly help a child imagine how we might feel inside when we hold on to negative emotions.  That part of the book is exceptional.  I am slightly less clear on how Max went from ooh-a-ladybug, to let-me-draw-a-balloon, to the concept of releasing negative emotions.  As an adult, I can see the connection if I mentally squint a bit, but I wonder if a kid will make the mental leap.  However, I do love one line in particular that really sums up the whole book: "It's ok to have all kinds of feelings," Father whispered. "But once you feel them, their job is done."  That's a message worth hearing.

Ultimately, Max's Box is a useful tool for the parental toolbox, especially for parents who want to talk to their child about what to do with BIG feelings.  The final pages of the book are informational and designed to help parents react to a child's emotion in healthy and helpful ways.  Most of Penfield's illustrations are black and white with small pops of blue (like the cover above); however, as Max learns to let go of his feelings the illustrations become more vividly hued, culminating in several full-color pages, which I thought was a nice touch.  I'd recommend this book to a parent whose child often feels overwhelmed by BIG feelings, especially negative ones.  It might not alleviate their burden entirely, but it might help shrink their box a bit.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Nothing to worry about

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