max's boxI’m kind of in the middle of the road about Max’s Box by Brian Wray and illustrated by Shiloh Penfield. On the one hand, I think there was a lot of merit to the story and the message that it was trying to tell but on the other I just get the sense that it wasn’t very well planned out as there are various portions of the concept that just don’t quite make sense. And while, at the end of the day, I don’t really see a lot of children noticing this at first, it does become rather glaring to anyone older who is reading it. And what really gets me is that I love so much about the idea, but there are pieces to the story that I would definitely change had I been the one to write it.

The book begins with Max’s parents giving him a box. They tell him that everything goes into the box and so Max first uses it as a place to put his toys–makes sense–and then soon learns that his emotions also go into the box. With each new addition, the box grows bigger and heavier and more difficult to carry around with him. As I read on, this instance leaves me with a few questions. Why do his toys and his emotions go into the same box? Why is it that the only emotions that seem to go into the box are the negative ones that people tend to bottle? If everything goes into the box, why not the happy emotions?

And I think ultimately I can get on board with this idea that keeping toys from your childhood can drag you down when you get excessively attached to them–been there, done that, kind of moved on but not really–when ultimately we can all realize that the toys aren’t actually as important as we make them in our minds. But I don’t get why the parents told Max that everything was going to go into the box. And then the question of why they never bothered to explain to him how to deal with the box or noticed that he was lugging it around when they’d given it to him in the first place made the story rather awkward.

I, personally, believe that the story would have been better if they were teaching him about a toy box and how he should put away his toys and then Max went on to believe the same about his emotions and got his own box to put those in that got bigger and bigger and weighed him down. It would have made more sense, in the long run, and the story would have been better overall.

Regardless of all that, I did appreciate the end of the story and the message it sends. I liked the bit at the end discussing emotions a little further and the fact that this story touched base on the idea of bottling one’s emotions–which is something I’ve done for quite a long time and I imagine many children and others do as well. In general, there are some great things about this book and some meh things about it. I don’t think I’d buy the book for myself, but it does have its merits.

I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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