Sunday, May 26, 2019

Review - Max's Box

Max's Box
by Brian Wray
illustrated by Shiloh Penfield
Date: 2019
Publisher: Schiffer Kids
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Max's parents give him a very special gift: a tiny, magical box that will hold everything, from his toys to his feelings. Max learns, however, that feelings can't be put away as easily as toys. Each negative emotion he feels—anger, embarrassment, sadness, loneliness—gets added to the box, which grows and grows. Eventually it is so large that it keeps him from doing what he loves, like riding his bike and climbing trees. With some help from his friends and family, Max is able to turn the box into something beautiful and let it go. A parents' guide explains how well-intentioned adults often encourage children, especially young boys, to ignore and “put away” their feelings instead of learning to fully live with them. This simple but powerful story not only teaches children how to “control” their emotions but discourages suppressing them, the illustrations becoming more colorful and vibrant as Max moves out from his box’s shadow.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book is just plain confusing. I get what the author is trying to do here (I think), but the writing fails the message.

Max's parents give him a box and tell him that everything will go inside it. All his toys. Everything. Max eventually learns that his emotions go into the box, too. The problem is, whenever something gets put into the box, the box grows. Soon, Max can't do anything anymore because he's weighed down by this giant, heavy box that he has to take everywhere.

The confusing part for me is because his parents tell him that everything goes in the box... and yet, it appears to be only the negative emotions that get stored and weigh him down. So maybe the author could've said that only negative stuff goes in the box... but then, that doesn't explain why all his toys are in there. (Everything is in there, remember?) So I'm really struggling to understand this part of the story.

I'm also struggling to understand why only Max appears to have one of these boxes. It makes his parents seem kind of cruel and abusive, giving him this box without letting him know how to use it so that it doesn't end up being a ball and chain that he has to drag around. (It's even worse because his father eventually tells him it's okay to let his feelings go once they've done their job. Gee, thanks, Dad! Could you not have pointed that out before the box got too big to even be hauled around by the family car?)

There are a number of grammatical issues in the text, and the illustrations feel really uneven to me. (The first one of his parents kind of took me by surprise. His dad's eyes are simply vertical lines, while his mom's eyes are fully detailed round orbs, complete with eyelashes!) I like the way Max is the only bit of colour for most of the book (his shirt is blue), until the last few pages when more colour creeps in as everyone helps him lighten his load of feelings.

I'm afraid I can't really recommend this one, though. It's supposedly aimed at helping kids deal with their emotions, because emotions can be confusing. Well, this book is confusing. I'm still wondering why Max is the only one who has one of these boxes, why it only holds negative emotions and toys, and why his parents gave it to him without warning him about the consequences of stuffing his negative emotions in a box. That seems like a pretty twisted mind game.

Thank you to NetGalley and Schiffer Kids for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

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