Cover image for The big box
The big box
Morrison, Toni.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion Books for Children/Jump at the Sun, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Because they do not abide by the rules written by the adults around them, three children are judged unable to handle their freedom and forced to live in a box with three locks on the door.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.5 0.5 74596.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area
Central Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Clarence Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Concord Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Crane Branch Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Grand Island Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Frank E. Merriweather Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Oversize
Frank E. Merriweather Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Frank E. Merriweather Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Williamsville Library PZ8.2.M836 BI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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To make three youngsters - Patty, Mickey and Liza Sue - abide by their rules, the grown-ups - parents, teachers and other adults - create a world inside a box, a world with toys, games, treats and gifts. But all Patty, Mickey and Liza Sue really want is the freedom to be themselves.

Author Notes

Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931. She received a B.A. in English from Howard University in 1953 and a master's degree in English from Cornell University in 1955 with her thesis on the theme of suicide in modern literature. She taught at several universities including Texas Southern University, Howard University, and Princeton University.

Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. Her other works include Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Paradise, Love, A Mercy, Home, and God Help the Child. She has won several awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon in 1977, the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1988, the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the Edward MacDowell Medal for her outstanding contribution to American culture in 2016, and the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction in 2016. She also co-wrote children's books with her son, Slade Morrison, including The Big Box, The Book of Mean People, and Peeny Butter Fudge.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-4. "Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy." Wordsworth's famous line could be the theme of Morrison's first picture book, coauthored by her son, who "devised" the story when he was nine. It's about three contemporary kids imprisoned because their imagination and spontaneity threaten the conformist adult world. Patty's a rebel in the classroom; she makes the heavy-browed, therapeutic grown-ups nervous. Mickey upsets his city neighborhood. Liza frees the animals on the farm. So, for their own good, the three children must be locked away in a big, brown box. The box is comfortable, even pretty, filled with cool consumer stuff, but there are three locks on the door, which opens only one way. Allthough the sing-song, rhyming narrative suffers from a didactic refrain about the joyful natural world outside, where animals scream, rabbits hop, and "beavers chew trees when they need 'em," Potter's large-size double-spread illustrations in naive style effectively contrast the stiff, luxurious details of the human prison with the openness and color of the primitive wilderness to which the triumphant rebellious trio escape and run with the animals in the light. Disobedience, nonconformity, and imaginative play are at the heart of many great children's books, from Maurice Sendak's 1963 classic, Where the Wild Things Are, to Rosemary Wells' subversive Timothy Goes to School (1981); in contrast, Morrison's story is simplistic and sentimental. Older kids may want to talk about the sinister prison images of dystopia, but the message about individual freedom is too heavily spelled out, three times in fact. The story will appeal most to adults who cherish images of childhood innocence in a fallen world. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In what PW called "a social commentary on childhood," two girls and a boy live in a "big brown box" with a door that has "three big locks"; they have been sent there by adults who think they "can't handle their freedom." Ages 8-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-Morrison sets to rhyme a story her son created when he was nine-years-old. When three children make their parents, neighbors, or teachers nervous-Patty talks in the library, Mickey plays handball where he shouldn't, and Liza Sue lets the chickens on her farm keep their eggs-the adults decide that the youngsters can't handle their freedom and so choose to have them confined. A literal reading of the text says that they put them in a big box, but some will infer that they were institutionalized. Their parents visit on Wednesday nights and provide plenty of material gifts, but "the door only opens one way." Potter's moody, quirky, somber-colored illustrations, similar to those she created for Candace Fleming's Gabriella's Song (Atheneum, 1997), interpret the story quite literally, picturing nearly every object mentioned in the text, leaving little to readers' imaginations. The box varies between a furnished room with the three locks on the door referred to in the text, to the cardboard box on the cover, from which, at the end of the story, the three break free to recapture their personal freedom. This is a book that will have a hard time finding an audience: it looks like a picture book for younger children, yet the theme and images require some sophistication and a desire to explore life's boundaries. What children of any age will make of parents who decided to lock up their own children for relatively minor infractions remains to be seen.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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