Sunday, August 23, 2015
Jessica's Box, written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas. Kane Miller, Publishers Group Canada. 2015. $16.50 ages 4 and up
But by lunchtime, a crowd
of curious children had
gathered. Jessica reached
into the box.
Some children laughed.
Some tried not to.
Others just walked away."
While we are thinking about the return to school in upcoming weeks, we need to be aware that for some children the first day of school can be pretty daunting. Whether it's a brand new school and a fresh start, a return to old friends and familiar settings, or the very first day ever in any school, there are fears to be faced, concerns addressed and a plan devised.
Jessica is so excited about her first day of school, she can't sleep. When the new day dawns, her family is very supportive. They offer advice and help her make a plan. Her teddy in a box should invite conversation, encourage curiosity, and help her make new friends. The plan backfires when she opens the box, and some of her classmates laugh and walk away.
Jessica talks with her mom about her miserable day. Another plan is made. Next day, her cupcake-filled box seems just right. Cupcakes gone, not even a thank you; Jessica is determined to try again. The third day she takes her dog to school to a chorus of delight - until the groundskeeper passes by with the news that dogs are not allowed at school. He takes Doris home.
Feeling blue, she turns to Dad for advice. What can he say? Together they contemplate space and the wonder of being together (without words). It's up to Jessica to decide what to do next. On the fourth morning, she takes an empty box. When she puts it over her head, she discovers that it does exactly what she has wanted from the very first day.
Jessica’s disability is irrelevant to the story and is not mentioned at all, nor is her aboriginal heritage. Peter Carnavas allows his readers to make many discoveries for themselves through his wonderful artwork which is fraught with feelings, and surely will encourage conversation. It is done quietly, carefully and memorably. It is going on my 'keeper' shelf!