The illustrated endpapers of this fanciful book lead the young reader to want to explore inside the book, because who can resist the lure of these assembled objects: half a map, a red pencil whose markings illustrate a trail on the map, several ticket stubs, a seahorse-embossed coin token, and black-and-white photographs—next to an emblem for Seahorse Pier saltwater taffy? Inside the book, the soft watercolor/gouache/ink illustrations begin with foreshadowing on the title page: a boy from long ago opening a taffy box tagged “the secret box.” Subsequent pages in cameo and graphic illustrated formats provide pieces of the puzzle that is this story. Each page invites the reader to search the illustration for clues. S/he will notice the boy lifting a flap of wood in a floor, a perspective view of a building, a pan-out shot of a town, a town of long-ago.
Next, three boys in a dormitory are introduced, and it’s obvious that these are curious boys! Readers will have to make inferences from the pictures’ perspectives, the body language and dress of the people, the clues the taffy box provides, and more. What the boys discover is much more than the sum of the clues! This is a wonderful book for teaching pre-reading strategies, of course, but it is also a lovely choice for a lap-sit and some shared time between a youngster and a caring adult who can help the child make sense of the exciting discoveries each page holds. 45 pages Recommended for ages 5-8.
Recommended by Shari Shaw, Librarian, Michigan, USA
The Secret Box
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011