'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Review: Jessica's Box

When young Jessica finds herself poised on the eve of her first day at school, we can feel the trepidation from the very first page. Unable to sleep, this sweet little girl instead stares at the moon outside her window, consumed by ponderings on tomorrow.

When tomorrow arrives, all that pondering has been worth it. In order to fit in, to make friends and feel like she belongs, Jessica knows exactly what she must do. On the first day of school, Jessica takes a large cardboard box, cloistering a treasure sure to make friends. But when she reveals her beloved teddy bear, all she manages to 'make' is kids laugh.

On the second day, young Jessica pulls out the big guns – cupcakes! Plenty of gobbling mouths but no lasting friendships. Not even a thank you.

On the third day, Jessica thinks smart and smuggles her adorable dog Doris into the box. Plenty of kids rush over for a pat, but the groundskeeper quickly takes Doris home. How is Jessica even going to make a friend?

Defeated, Jessica takes only her box to school on the fourth day. When playtime arrives, she feels so sad, lost and lonely, all she wants to do is hide. So she does. Inside the box.

And who would ever suspect this simple tactic might attract a friend?

No tricks, no hooks, nothing fandangled, Jessica’s Box is not only about being true to ourselves, it’s about dropping the pretence and opening ourselves to the possibility that people may just like us for Who We Are, no bells, no whistles, no props attached.

Author Carnavas has woven a simple, beautiful and deeply touching story. He has crouched down to child-level in this book and seen the world through a young girls’ eyes, penned her anxiety, pegged her fears, gathered her self-reliance and showed her that simply Being Jessica is enough.

I love this book’s simple, delicately subtle message that children will absorb by osmosis and parents will grow misty over. With clear, warm and nicely balanced text, it’s sure to become a bedtime staple and ad infinitum read on many a preschooler’s list.

Illustrations by the author are emotive, warm and oftentimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking – especially when sad moments are so effectively portrayed with an absence of colour.

It’s no surprise Jessica’s Box was deemed a Notable Book by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in 2008 and was a shortlisted Book of the Year by Speech Pathology Australia in 2009.

I’m very much looking forward to my next Carnavas experience.

Title: Jessica’s Box
Author/Illustrator: Peter Carnavas
Publisher: New Frontier, $24.95 RRP
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781921042911
Type: Picture Book
For ages: 4-6