The Secret Box
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The Secret Box

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  296 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Times change.
Cities may grow large.
Summers may come and go.
And people might grow old,
but the one thing that always
remains the same is the desire for
adventure. Barbara Lehman takes readers on a timeless trip to a world of secret messages left in secret boxes hidden in secret places.

You’ll never know what you’ll find when you look inside!...more
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published March 21st 2011 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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2012 Mock Caldecott
43rd out of 83 books — 177 voters
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Wordless Picture Books
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Community Reviews

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Amy Carr
I usually enjoy this author/illustrator's books but this one was definitely an exception. It is a "wordless" picture book that "shows" an adventure that some children go on when they discover a treasure map hidden in the floor of their boarding school. They sneak out of their school, wander through a city, go through a sewer pipe and come out on the beach by a boardwalk. The directions lead them to a random, hidden room where there are a ton of children from several different eras all having a b...more
Sarah Sammis
The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman is a wordless picture book about a hidden treasure that leads a group of children on an across-town and -time adventure.

The book opens with children at a boarding school, or an orphanage (whatever the building is, it's up to interpretation), finding an old box under the floorboards. Inside are photographs, a map, tickets and a few other odds and ends. Working together, the children piece together the instructions that lead them across town to a beachside amusemen...more
Randie
Lehman has created yet another nostalgic, adventurous, wordless picture book. In "The Secret Box," a young boy places his favorite items in a secret box and then hides the box in a secret place. Many years pass and the city grows big. A trio of children discover the secret box and the items behave as clues that unlock a fun adventure into the past for the children.

The illustrations appear simple but they are elaborately detailed and tell a story that will inspire children to see how adventures...more
Westerville
"A story that requires the "reader" (here, viewer) to look carefully and even use a little map-reading and imagination. Lehman conveys a sense of place, the passage of time, building curiousity as the page turns. Love the mostly muted palette of blues, greens, yellows, tans, with accents of read. And the ending that is not quite an ending . . . leaving some other children on the path to explore." - Robin, Youth Services Librarian

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Richard
The Secret Box is a wordless book showing how time changes and a city emerges around a particular building. Kids find a box in that building that was put there when there was only farmland everywhere, which seems to be long ago. They follow clues and find a magical place where the owner of the box lets them in and other kids wait to greet and play with them. It seems it is saying that the place they are in is timeless. The end shows new kids later on down the road making the same journey of adve...more
Laura
I read one of Barbara Lehman's other wordless books, Rainy Day, so I decided to read this one as well. Lehman effective uses illustrations, perspective, and framing to tell her story clearly. This particular books features a box hidden in a tall yellow building. The next few pages show the same building through perhaps 150 years; buildings grow, cars become modern, and industrial city springs up. Several boys find the secret box, which includes a map and enticing illustrations. They follow a str...more
Tasha
Lehman continues her wordless books with this treasure of a title. Years ago, during the times of steam trains and horse-drawn carriages, a boy hides a box under the floorboards of a house. Other buildings are built around that house, as the city grows. Cars and a modern train show that time has passed. Three children head to the high floor and discover the hidden box. In the box are directions to the Seahorse Pier. The children have to find the old landmarks that are almost hidden in the modern...more
Barbara
A boy hides a box filled with memorabilia, and then many years later, three children find it. They follow its clues and discover another place, a secret world perhaps, where the boy who hid the box frolics with other children. As the three join their new comrades, two more children find the clues. Other reviewers have noted the similarity to David Wiesner's Flotsam, which I would agree is there. I had to go back to the first illustration to make sure the boy on the pier was the same one who left...more
Amy Musser
Take a wordless adventure though time in this intriguing adventure of secret maps in secret boxes hidden in secret hiding places. It all begins when a boy many years ago hides a secret box in the attic of a school for boys in the country. Time passes and the school finds itself in the middle of a bustling city. It seems that the secret box has been forgotten until the day three school children find the box in the secret hiding place in the attic. They find photographs and maps with red arrows, t...more
Monica
A cool time travel piece! I bet there are a lot of long forgotten "time capsules" buried in childhood backyards. And I apologize to my decade-younger sister for being a critical teenager when she buried hers. If I ever need a buck, I know where to find one.
Dale
Wordless story, pretty easy to follow. Shows change over time in a city.
Amanda
This wordless picture book takes readers on an adventure spanning many decades. The entire plot centers around a secret box, hidden in a bording school . As students from subsequent decades find the box, they begin their adventure through the city, following the maps and clues hidden in the box. The ending is a bit far-fetched but fits with the adventure themed book. The illustrations have bold lines and show the passing of time through the transportation, landscapes, and buildings throughout th...more
Trisan
No words at all. Great picture story.
Kris
I really like the idea of this wordless picture book. A boy hides a box (the cover of which looks a great deal like the cover of the book) filled with trinket treasures and a map in the attic of what looks like a boarding school. Years later, the box is found by three kids who use the map to sneak out and go to Seahorse Pier. I was a little surprised to find kids from the past still playing at the pier, and then suddenly to see two more kids discovering the box, but I think it would inspire repe...more
Gwen the Librarian
Barbara Lehman is a queen of modern wordless picturebooks. All of her books are wordless adventures through time and place, making connections between children of all kinds, from all times, in all places. The Secret Box runs even more threads through time than some of her other books, with three different groups of children sharing a secret box and a map. I love these because there is such a sense of mystery, really capitalizing on the childhood idea of truly finding a treasure or map that is li...more
Joy
This wordless picture book has so much to offer. The illustrations are lovingly detailed in a fresh, soft color palette. The passage of time from after the box is hidden shows the neighborhood surrounding the school changing and is a kind of mini history lesson. I must admit I was surprised by what awaited the boys when they followed the clues from the secret box, but it worked and opens up an avenue for many views and conversations. I am excited to check out more by this author/illustrator.
Summer
Sep 28, 2012 Summer marked it as to-read
Shelves: picture-books
This book is a good way to highlight the importance of paying attention to small detail while reading and focusing on the events that lead, are leading, and may lead to another big event or change. This book is also a good way to help students understand the impact that they may have on the word around them. Through this book students might come to see that the choices they make will be remembered by someone in some way.
Robin
A story that requires the "reader" (here, viewer) to look carefully and even use a little map-reading and imagination. Lehman conveys a sense of place, the passage of time, building curiousity as the page turns. Love the mostly muted palette of blues, greens, yellows, tans, with accents of read. And the ending that is not quite an ending . . . leaving some other children on the path to explore.
Amy
The concept of this book is unique. Kids find a box with artifacts that are very "time capsule" like. But without words, the book is confusing and difficult to follow. Students will not be able to initially identify the role of the boy until they meet the other kids in the story. This book took a lot of work to figure out.
Courtney
This book was a complete picture book about a city and how it changes over time. It was a well-illustrated and had a great concept. It took the reader through different eras and on an adventure through a map in a secret box. This book would be great to look at during a history lesson or for young children to use their imagination.
Emkoshka
Oh, how I love wordless books. This one is a trip through time and history as it progresses around the constant of an orphanage. But Seahorse Pier beckons, and new friends await. Although it should be a happy tale, I felt overwhelmed by a sense of sadness, desolation and abandonment. Completely innocent yet somehow sinister.
Becky
I didn't love this quite as much as Barbara Lehman's other books, but maybe that's just because it made me work a little harder! This wordless book requires the reader to fill in the gaps of the plot and passage of time, after discovering old maps and postcards in a secret box under the floorboards. Good for narrative skills.
Melissa
This reminded me strongly of Flotsam by Wiesner, but not in a bad way, and also of the author's own Red Book. I think the author did a good job of providing enough visual clues to clarify the story, but it's definitely a school-age title. I think there are a couple of really delicious questions to talk about here!
Wendy
What a delightful wordless picture book, perfect for older children! I've always loved the mystery of finding a secret treasure map. This book offers a view of how one corner of land moves from rural to ultra urban over generations of time, allowing new children to solve the mystery of the secret box again and again.
Heidi
A wordless book with very much to say in its illustrations. I found myself flipping back and forth repeatedly to follow the passage of the story. A neat idea with a fun "journey." A good choice for a lap-read or read-alone to get children to improve their literacy by telling the story in their own words.
Reader
An equation:

A mystery box hidden in the upstairs of an orphanage.
+
A map leading to a secret enclave of children who live forever.
-
Words
=
The Secret Box
It may not be for every reader, but man does it tell an interesting story. Fans of Wiesner's Flotsam will love this. -T
Dylan & Belle at LearnPlayFun
This story is about three kids who find a secret box. There were pictures inside the secret box. Then they went to the place in the picture. The city grows. Two other kids also find the pictures. My favorite part was seeing how the city grows.

Rated and reviewed by Dylan, age 7
Andreaiu
The illustrations in this book are great, but even I was a little confused by this story and had to look at the book several times to come up with a plausible through-line for myself. This book is definitely one to be shared with a parent or other loved one.
Donalyn
The first time I read this, I was confused by the ending. Then, I realized that I hadn't looked at the illustrations well. I thought this was a beautiful piece of storytelling about adventure and our connections to the past and future.
Stefani
This wordless picture book tells the story of times changing, but children of any generation like to have fun! The detail and the story within the pictures is great. The size and intricacy lends itself to one-on-one or small group sharing.
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Barbara Lehman is an illustrator and author of children's books.
More about Barbara Lehman...
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