Book Review: “Not A Box” By Antoinette Portis


“Not a Box” is a simple tale of very few words.  A Rabbit has a box and the reader is asking him about it.  Instead of calling it a “box,” the Rabbit replies with different ideas of what it could be, such as a mountain.  It encourages the imagination in a child by using an object that they are familiar with and have probably played with before.  My daughter really liked it and I am sure that I am going to find her “reading” it to herself.

Some Thoughts and Extensions on “Not a Box”:

-It is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. Check out my other post here for award info

-It uses an object that you can easily access and actually act out the suggestions in the book and have your child think of more

-This is an unique book in that it can appeal to both younger and older children.  My daughter, for example, is three and likes to look at the pictures where kids a bit older can appreciate and connect to the imagination of the little bunny.  I had to kind of explain  what the pictures meant to my daughter.

-I was going to suggest to use your child’s imagination with other objects around your house, but the author seemed to beat me to it!  She also wrote a book entitled “Not a Stick.”  You and your child could read both books and then choose a different object and create your own book and draw your own pictures-how fun!?!?  You could even extend the “Not a Stick” and “Not a Box” books with more ideas from your child.

-This book would make a great gift, just make sure you wrap it in a big box 🙂

Here is an animated representation of the book:

Other Resource:

Smaller Gifts ($20 and under): Older Children (about ages 4-8)

hamburger erasers

If you are looking for under $20 gifts for children under the age of four, check out this post.  Otherwise, read on….

I have compiled a list smaller (under $20) gifts that are fun and educational for children about the ages of 4-8.  These gifts can be stocking stuffers, or just rainy day gifts.  Enjoy!

Hardcover Books.  I assume that most people are like me in that they primarily purchase paperback books for their children.  Except for the previously owned selection in our house, we mostly have paperback or board books.  We would hardy have any books in our house if we had to spend upwards of twenty dollars per book.  Hardcover books are extra special.  They are larger and usually feature a cover and artwork of some kind on the end pages.  They have substance to them when you hold them and paperback versions of some books are just not the same, especially when the book consists of intricate illustrations.  Hardcover books can be a special gift that will last a long time, if taken care of properly.


Here are a few examples of books that are wonderful in the hardcover form…

  • “Flotsam” By David Wiesner. Published by Clarion/Houghton Mifflin in 2006, it was the 2007 winner of the Caldecott Medal.  This book takes the reader through a magical journey through time.  What makes this book extra special in hardcover form, aside from the beautiful illustrations, is that it is a wordless picture book.  Due to the fact that the pictures tell the story of this book, having it in hardcover makes it easier to see all of the details.  Full review to come.
  • Paul O. Zelinsky Books.  Paul O. Zelinsky  illustrated books are extra special in hard cover form, especially his fairy and folk tales.  Some of his titles include Rapunzel,  Rumpelstiltskin, and Swamp Angel (Illustrator).  I have read several versions of these fairy tales, and in my opinion, Zelinsky’s illustrations are some of the best.  He also wrote and illustrated “The Wheels on the Bus” which features different tabs to make object in the song move.
  • A lot of classic books are extra special in hardcover form such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle, Where the Wild Things Are By Maurice Sendak, and Dr. Seuss Books.

memory game

-Games:  Children this age are usually involved in some type of environment where they are going to be interacting with other children.  Games are a great way to help children learn different strategies while learning life-lessons such as taking turns, being patient, and being a good sport. They are also a great bonding time for families.

Here are a couple examples….

  • Classic Hasbro games such as  The Original Memory Game, Chutes and Ladders, and Candy Land.
  • eeBoo Games and puzzles.  Their card games, such as Old Maid, and their puzzles are very cute and seem studier than a lot of other brands.  They include a lot of games and puzzles that portray people from all over the world. is their website.  You can check out their products, however they suggest going to your local neighborhood store to purchase.


Writing Accessories.  Kids are so imaginative.  Why not harness their imaginations in the form of written stories?  At this stage, children are starting to learn the structure of narratives.  These gifts can help guide children through creating their very own books.  BONUS:  The books can be kept safe and given to your children when they are older-What fun?!?!

  • Bare Books.  Bare Books are just what they sound like, empty books that are ready for your children to fill out and color.  They have all types of shapes and sizes.  They even have games boards and puzzles that your child can create!  You can order them from their website
  • Pencil Grips- Chances are, your child is still adjusting to how to correctly hold a pencil.  Grips can help guide your child on how to hold their pencils.  They can also add comfort to your child’s delicate fingers.  There are a ton of options out there.  Here is one website:
  • Erasers- Erasers are fun because there are so many different choices.  There are cell phones, animals, money, and even hamburgers.  It would be easy to find something that your child is interested in.  Sometimes children find comfort in knowing that they are able to erase their mistakes.  It gives them more encouragement to try.  Here is a website with some examples”
Smencils can be purchased through their website, or you can find them at many local toy stores.

Smencils can be purchased through their website, or you can find them at many local toy stores.

Smaller Gifts Under $20 Part One: Pre-Readers (About 3 years and under)


Whether you are looking for stocking stuffers or a birthday gift, there are many options out there that can be fun AND educational.

Here are a couple of suggestions for Pre-Readers and Writers:

ilove you through and through

  • Board Books- At this stage, children should get familiar with books.  They should start to understand how to hold them (right side up) and also how to turn the pages to make your way to the end.  Board books are a great way for young readers to handle books on their own.   The pages are thicker so they are easier for those little fat fingers to turn.  They also make it harder for kids to rip.  I can’t tell you how many pages of books have been ripped by accident in this house.  I will be posting a guide to buying board books soon.  In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites…
    • “Moo, Baa, Lalala” by Sandra Boynton,  I love her board books.   They are so cute and usual feature rhyming or repetition which is so helpful to readers at this stage.
    • “I Love you Through and Through” by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak, I have read this book about a thousand times.  It is a favorite in our house.
    • “Good Night Gorilla” By Peggy Rathmann , This classic book is really fun as a board book at this stage because they are also learning the names of animals.  The gorilla and mouse are really cute as well.


  • Photograph Books- Along the same lines as the Board Books, books that allow you to insert your own photographs are a great way for children to learn how to handle and turn the pages of a book.  I strongly suggest any kind of personalization for teaching little ones and what better way to personalize a book than put pictures that your little one can recognize.  The possibilities with this book are endless.  You can put pictures of your friend and family, their favorite toys, animals you saw at the zoo, really anything that your child is familiar with.  Here is an example of one available from OneStepAhead.  It is for really young children and holds 12 photos and features different textures.  It can also be personalized with your child’s name.
  • Puppets- Pre-Narrative writing for kids at this stage entails hearing and telling stories.  You can show your child how to stories are developed.   I used to do this all of the time with my daughter.  I would say “once upon a time there was a ….” and she would make up a character.  I would provide most of the details to the story and once in a while I would have her add a character or a setting or a detail.  When we were finished, I would repeat what we came up with and viola, we would have a complete story.  Doing this with puppets is a fun and engaging way to begin your child writing.  The puppets would give your child a visual to your own story.   The next stage would be your child using the puppets to make up their own stories by themselves while playing independently.  Here are some puppets from Melissa and Doug.  You could really make up some great stories with these characters!  If you are looking for a stocking stuffers, you could always go with finger puppets!
  • puppet
  • Alphabet/Phonics Kits and Games- There are a lot of  fun games out these that expose your child to letters and their sounds.  Some are magnetic, so they are interesting to kids at this age and they can play with them while you are working in the kitchen.  We received one as a gift and my daughter loves it!  It is called “Fridge Phonics” and it is from Leap Frog.  I personally had a hard time keeping all the letters together, so if you decide to purchase this one, it might be a good idea to have a plan, or bucket, or whatever to keep them all together.  We have had it for a year and we are down to about 17 letters.
    • When looking for a picture of our magnet alphabet from Leapfrog, it seems that they have an upgraded kit that includes a bucket!  They read my mind!  I think that this just about the same thing as what we have, except it includes numbers 1-10 and it isn’t magnetic. Here is a link to their site.  Bad news-It may not fit in a stocking anymore.