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Not a Box

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A box is just a box... unless it's not a box. From mountain to rocket ship, a small rabbit shows that a box will go as far as the imagination allows.

Inspired by a memory of sitting in a box on her driveway with her sister, Antoinette Portis captures the thrill when pretend feels so real that it actually becomes real — when the imagination takes over and inside a cardboard box, a child is transported to a new world where anything is possible.

Dedicated to children everywhere sitting in cardboard boxes.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published December 12, 2006

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About the author

Antoinette Portis

29 books111 followers
Antoinette attended the UCLA School of Fine Arts and is a former creative director at Disney. She lives in Southern California.

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5 stars
7,367 (51%)
4 stars
4,248 (29%)
3 stars
2,017 (14%)
2 stars
462 (3%)
1 star
273 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 968 reviews
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,254 reviews404 followers
September 8, 2018
I loved boxes as a child, I loved imaginative play and the craft possibilities with a large box are endless. This is a nice simple book about a rabbit who is imagining different scenarios with a box, lovely!
Profile Image for Sophia Triad.
2,239 reviews3,513 followers
May 3, 2018
This book is a tribute to children's imagination and creativity. Beautiful!
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,801 reviews1,235 followers
November 21, 2008
I didn’t really think the ending worked but this very simple book captures perfectly children’s imaginations at play and how boxes (or other objects) can become anything. It reminded me of the box that came with a new stove and what fun my friends and I had in it as castle, house, fort, etc. and how we would use a table with a blanket over it for some of the same play. Kids are so great!
Profile Image for Gregory Walters.
Author 10 books6 followers
July 20, 2011
I love toys. When children walk into my principal's office, they notice two things: (1) kids' books, and (2) toys. In the toy department, I stock the classics: Slinky, Magic 8-Ball, wind-up critters. But I've overlooked an even more popular classic, one that doesn't require navigating your way through PlayStation gadgetry and Transformer movie tie-ins at the local Toys "R" Us. Get your hands on a large cardboard box--large enough to climb in--and watch the fun begin.

This picture book is an ode to the lowly cardboard box, cleverly designed with that familiar drab brown for the cover. (Hey, Benjamin Moore, there's a new paint color for you: ooh, Box Brown.) The title appears in simple red letters along with a "NET WT." stat on the front and a "THIS SIDE UP" on the sparse back cover.

The simplicity continues inside the book, with respect to both text and drawings. The unimaginative narrator's questions (e.g., "Why are you sitting in a box?") are typed on the left page while a simple black-outlined bunny figure literally assumes the position on the otherwise blank right side. Turn the page and bright yellow and red wash over the spread as bunny's imaginative play is revealed.

Life really can be that simple. This book will make you smile and hopefully reignite some of that wonder in the adult mind.

Anybody around here just purchase a new refrigerator? How about I take that box off your hands...
Profile Image for Melki.
6,026 reviews2,387 followers
January 31, 2019
Ah, to be a child again, and see the world within a cardboard box. Oh, the things it can be, and the places it can take you. I LOVE how the cover lists the net weight, and the back cover says "THIS SIDE UP." Too cute!
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,941 reviews202 followers
October 13, 2021
Like so many excellent children’s books, adults will get so much more out of it than their children. An unseen adult asks the bunny child about his “box”; the clever bunny repeatedly denies that it’s a box — and thanks to his imagination, it’s not! It can be anything: racecar, a blazing apartment building, and even Mount Everest and more! Author Antoinette Portis, with her story and drawings, has crafted a valentine to imagination. Highly, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Cathleen.
1,090 reviews39 followers
November 4, 2017
How have I not added this book before now? I couldn't begin to estimate the number of times I've read either on my own or with a little one. It is a perfect - yes, perfect - blend of whimsy and cadence and inspiration and economy. The brown paper packaging is added delight, as are the carefully simplified illustrations. We all need more not-a-boxes in our lives.
Profile Image for Stephanie Calhoun.
50 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2016
This book would be a great writing prompt. The students could come up with a way that they could use their imagination with a box (the teacher would need to provide boxes, of course). Such a cute book!
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
February 11, 2020
The title of this picture-book for very young children reminds me of Magritte's famous painting, La trahison des images (The Treachery of Images), in which an image of a pipe is labeled: "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe"). Rather than calling into question the distinctions between image and reality, however, Not a Box is a charming juxtaposition of the prosaic (and one presumes, adult) perspective, when confronted with a cardboard box, and the creative response of the child, when confronted with the same. As the rabbit-like child keeps informing the off-screen questioner, this is NOT a box. It is a mountain, a burning building, a robot suit, and much, much more! It is, in short, whatever the child wants and needs it to be, in the course of her imaginative play.

I enjoyed Not a Box enough that I'm considering tracking down the follow-up, Not a Stick , but I have to wonder whether the very young children who make up the ideal audience for it, visually speaking, will really appreciate the story. It's not a question of understanding, so much, but of interest. Will young readers be as entertained by the juxtaposition of perspective, mentioned above, as adults? I suspect that this one plays more to the adult fascination with, and nostalgia for, the make-believe of youth, than to a genuinely childlike appreciation for play. Then again, perhaps I am (like so many other reviewers that I myself have criticized) underestimating the young reader...?
Profile Image for Karen.
Author 9 books28 followers
July 15, 2013
First of all, I love the "packaging" of this book. The cover looks like a parcel -- so cute and so clever.

Then there is the rabbit. "Not a Box" has drawn comparisons to "Harold and the Purple Crayon", another very good, buy-worthy book, but in some ways I prefer this book. Because of the rabbit. The rabbit is drawn in that deceptively simple way (rather like Mo Willems' pigeon), is nameless and gender-neutral. Any child can relate to the rabbit.

When my son was about a year and a half, he began to empty all the toys out of his toy box (and scatter the toys ALL over the family room floor) and then try to climb into the empty toy box. For his safety and my sanity, I had to move his toy box and set up an empty box in it's place. Now he climbs into the empty box. I remember doing this when I was very young. See, any child can relate to a rabbit with an imagination and an empty box.

The story and illustrations are easy-to-follow, toddler-simple. This book works great for story time with a large group of children, or story time with just one child.
12 reviews3 followers
January 19, 2014
A little rabbit has a box. Everyone keeps asking him questions about the box but the rabbit suggests that it is “not a box” and begins to get frustrated. He has very creative imagination and makes the box into different things in his imagination such as a car, mountain etc.

Although, this story is very short, I really enjoyed it. I love how the pictures show us the imagination of the rabbit. I also like the cover over the book, which has a cardboard box feeling to it. It will be a very good story for children in early years because this will give them ideas to be creative with their own imagination during play. They can also use junk modelling to create things from the materials.
Profile Image for Zequoia Hyche.
52 reviews3 followers
July 14, 2014
Not a Box is a fun story to read, because it is very simple. It has few words, but says so much about how important it is to foster creativity. It encourages children to see this ordinary box in a different manner. The illustrations are pretty simple as well, but they display different ways a box can be transformed into something greater. We want our children to be creative and to think for themselves. As teachers we should not want to conform our children to a box. We want them to explore different things and try different things, because that is how they learn.
Profile Image for Laura.
2,047 reviews39 followers
May 8, 2012
This was totally a hit with my kindergarten students. A bunny has a box but uses it to imagine a race car, climb a mountain, and rocket to the moon. Antointte Portis uses red lines to show the bunny's imagination, which is a perfect delineation for my kindergarten students.

I gave my students a bunny and box to design their own Not A Box. They had great ideas but it was hard for some of them to translate their ideas into a picture that reflected Portis style.
Profile Image for Iqra Fiaz.
124 reviews1 follower
November 7, 2018
I love this Picturebook because it encourages children to use their imaginations.

It is so effective because the pages are coloured brown and are plain and boring whenever someone questions the use of the character's imagination but when it comes up with something new that this box could be, the pages are brightly coloured and inviting.

It can be read to children to encourage them to be creative and 'think outside the box'.
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,875 reviews32 followers
January 6, 2020
This is a perennial favorite for my children, and it's perfect for parents, too, especially if you've ever given your child a gift and then they've played with the box instead. My five-year-old is extra impressed that the book "looks like it's made out of box stuff."
Profile Image for Amynicole.
154 reviews
February 9, 2017
i sincerely love a good imagination boost and inspiration book for children. the simplistic lines are perfect, the shape & color of the book itself resembling a box-- classic. well done!
Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 21 books292 followers
April 30, 2018
A very cute book to help little ones be imaginative and think/play outside the box!
717 reviews4 followers
June 7, 2018
I read to my 5-year-old. He reports he, "loved it very, super, much!"
For me, it brought back a particular memory that I wonder if my family recalls.
My parents had purchased a new refrigerator. The box it came in was an amazing sight! Until then I had no idea a box that size existed.
My little brother and I successfully persuaded my mother to allow us to sleep in the box for the night before it was disposed of. We happily did our get-ready-for-bed routine without the usual coaxing. The room was dark and we crawled into our "cave" for the night, quickly drifting off to sleep.
Unbeknownst to us, my sister Karen (five years my senior), thinking she would play a practical joke on us, had slipped into the far end of the box while we were away brushing our teeth. Her moment to say "ha, ha" had evaporated and she was trapped at the end of a box with the two of us sound asleep. At this point, the joke was on her.
Contemplating her options, she made a scary sound for us to waken in full fright. She escaped us and likely got into a little trouble with our parents. (If only our exciting sleep-in-a-box adventure concluded there, I might have forgotten the whole experience.)
Finally left alone, we slept the whole of the night in this great box. Early in the morning, however, I awoke to discover my little brother had wet the box. Now the joke (or the urine) was on me. Thanks, Tony. ;)
Profile Image for Lindsay.
41 reviews
November 25, 2014
The words in this book simply ask the rabbit again and again why he is playing with/what he is doing in/why he is squirting, etc. a box. Rabbit repeatedly replies a very simple, "it's not a box!" The pictures tell the story of the rabbit's imagination as the box transforms from a race car to a mountain peak to a robot and more. This is a fantastic little picture book that all kids can relate to.

The repetition in this predictable book makes it perfect to share with emerging readers. On every other page, the teacher can pause to let students finish the sentence as rabbit says, "it's not a box!"

A fun follow-up activity might be to ask students to draw themselves playing in a box and then use interactive writing to dictate their ideas. For example, "It's not a box!" could be preprinted on the bottom of a piece of paper. After students finish drawing, the teacher could write as they dictate the rest: "It's _________!" This could make a very cute addition to a young student's portfolio.

Another extension activity for very young (pre-K - K) students would be to bring several old cardboard boxes in for students to use during choice time. Imaginations would go wild with just a few boxes collected from a local grocery store or better yet (if classroom space allows), the local appliance or furniture store.
Profile Image for Sean DeLauder.
Author 9 books123 followers
January 5, 2015
Purchased this story to facilitate my children's imagination and teach them it's okay to have one. Probably unnecessary, as the oldest, Graham, has no trouble imagining he is a dinosaur or other animal (he watches a lot of Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train).

My imagination, though, is not always as welcome, as evidence of Graham's most common protests: "No, daddy, I am not a drum!" and "No, daddy, I am not a tasty food!"


While I fully enjoy Graham's imagination, which I've seen at work many a time, this book took him somewhat by surprise. The premise, that a mere box could be so much more, seemed to stun him. I've seen him play with boxes before, so his perplexity surprised me in turn, and I wonder if he thought he was the only one in the world with an imagination, as if we're all dullards permanently fixed in reality.

I don't know if this book allowed him to take a step forward with his own imagination, perhaps transforming existing objects into much greater ones, or opened the possibility that other people might share in a vision he had considered exclusive to himself, but either way, I feel the book served a great purpose. As a writer who creates and visits worlds myself, that's very gratifying, and gives me hope that he might someday be willing to join me in them.
Profile Image for Leslie Bardo.
29 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2013
This book is an interactive story of a bunny that has a box, for which the narrator asks what he or she is doing with the box. The bunny replies every time with what he or she imagines it is- a race car, a mountain, a building on fire, a robot, a pirate ship, a hot air balloon, a steamboat, a rocketship, etc. This book was so cute and well done that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The cover is made of cardboard material so that even the book seems like it could be made out of a box. The illustrations for this book are very simplistic- using a basic color palette that inlcude red, yellow, white, and brown. This bunny was so cute and creative with its ideas of what the box could be. I thought that kids could relate to the main character imagining and creating what all this simple box could be. This book is definitely age-appropriate with the focus on what children could relate to. I thought that this book would be perfect for a classroom or individual reading for kindergarten or first grade. I loved the simplicity and creativity of this book by Antoinette Portis that I will definitely be purchasing this book for my future classroom. I think that my students would just get a kick out of it! This is why I gave Not a Box 5 out of 5 stars.
66 reviews1 follower
November 23, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this picture book. I feel this book offers many opportunities for children to be creative and use their imagination through the illustrations and the questions asked. A teacher reading this text could ask the children to think of what rabbit could turn their box into before reading on, this will keep the children engaged and involved in the text. I like how the author has used different sentence starters for the questions because this teaches children how questions can be structured in multiple ways to create interesting questions. Overall, I would recommend this text!
6 reviews9 followers
December 4, 2020
Not a box by Antoinette Portis. This book "dedicated to children everywhere" could also well be dedicated to all adults who remember how in their childhood, the umpteenth times they played with cardboard or any other boxes rather than the toys on the shelves, transforming them into forts or beds or whatever that could be imagined, so many dreams and secrets lay hidden in those box transformations. A simple book with so much thought and provocation.
Profile Image for Meg.
92 reviews4 followers
April 2, 2019
Great book to encourage kids' imagination and creativity.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 968 reviews

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