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The Nowhere Box

The Nowhere Box
Written and Illustrated by Sam Zuppardi
Published by Candlewick Press in 2013
Preschool – Grade Six
Book Review
George had had enough!” So what do you do when pesky little siblings interrupt your play? Author / illustrator Sam Zuppardi explores this perennial question in a picture book that highlights children’s need for both solitary time and togetherness. George finds escape from his younger brothers in the form of a newly delivered washing machine box, which he transforms into a spaceship. George travels to Nowhere, a magnificent land of roller coasters, castles, and pirate ships; however, he soon realizes that “in Nowhere there were no dragons to be found… in fact, there was no one at all.” With spare text, mixed-media illustrations take center stage, shifting from child-style pencil and paint images to incorporate corrugated highlights during George’s journey. A tribute to the transformative power of the imagination and an investigation into the changing dynamics of sibling relationships, this clever visual treat will provide lots of mileage for classroom exploration.
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom.
Grades Preschool – Six
Where Would You Travel in Your Nowhere Box? Invite preschool and primary grade students to put themselves in George’s Place to consider to where they might travel in a Nowhere Box of their own creation. Have students share their ideas orally and create a chart representing their ideas. Then, offer materials for illustrating and writing about their travels. You might choose to have student model their illustrations after Sam Zuppardi’s, incorporating cardboard pieces into their images.
Alone Time & Time With Friends. The Nowhere Box offers an opportunity for children to think about the benefits of time alone (or quiet time) and time with friends. After holding a whole group conversation about when a person might need each different kind of time, ask students to draw and/or write about their personal preferences. You might fold an 18 x 12 piece of construction paper in half and ask children to depict what they do when they need time to themselves on one half of the paper and to use the adjacent side to depict a favorite activity with friends.
Cardboard Constructions. Collect a variety of cardboard boxes, large and small. Set aside a block of time for your students to work in teams to design and create a cardboard construction. If you think your students may need design ideas ahead of time, a search for “Cardboard Box Creations” on Pinterest will provide lots of photos for inspiration. You might choose to set challenge criteria for the groups ahead of time: for example, the tallest construction, the widest construction, the most complex construction, etc.; work with your students to develop these criteria and to award the designations once groups finish constructing.
Imaginary Lands. Read The Nowhere Boxalong with other picture books that feature children who imagine / create playspaces. Sample titles would include: Roxaboxen, Where the Wild Things Are, Not a Box, Mattland, and Zoomer’s Summer Snowstorm (see the Further Explorations section below for full references). Invite students to compare and contrast the books, noting who is involved in the play, what materials are used to create the playspaces, and what plot, conflicts, and themes are represented in the books. Ask students to consider why imaginary play is the subject of so many picture books. What role does imaginary play serve in childhood?
Mixed-Media in Illustration. Engage your students in an examination of the illustrations in The Nowhere Box. Notice how the medium used by Zuppardi changes in response to the plot line. Be sure to take the dust jacket off the book, viewing the book’s cover, which is a representation of the box. Conduct a broader exploration of the use of collage / mixed-media in picture book illustration, studying the works of author/illustrators such as, Molly Bang, Melissa Sweet, Steve Jenkins, Bryan Collier and others. Collaborate with the art specialist at your school to offer your students an opportunity to experiment with collage themselves.
Grades Three and Up
Siblings in Picture Books. A recent Sunday Book Review in The New York Times features The Nowhere Box along with several other current picture books about the interactions of siblings. Gather these books, ask your students to bring in any favorite books they have about siblings, and / or work with your school or local librarian to collect additional titles. Read across this text set to examine representations of sibling relationships in these picture books. Use the students’ observations to develop categories and create a large comparison chart to document their thinking.
Memoir Writing: Remembering Play Worlds. Invite students to write a memoir celebrating moments of imaginary play in their own lives. Use Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Land of Counterpane,” or selections from Dreaming Up, along with The Nowhere Box to launch a brainstorming session in which students make lists of special play moments from which to choose a topic for their memoirs. Guide students through the processes of topic selection, drafting, revising, editing and publishing their memoirs.
Making a Book Trailer. Watch the book trailer for The Nowhere Box using the link below. Invite your students to consider the purpose and the content of a book trailer. Watch several other children’s book trailers to test students’ hypotheses about the form and function of this new-ish genre. Students could then explore creation in this genre by scripting and creating a book trailer for a picture book title of their own choosing. This exercise helps students to think critically about how to promote a particular book either by emphasizing its strengths, hooking readers’ interest in the theme or topic, or engaging potential readers using the visual imagery of the book.
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Author’s Website: Sam Zuppardi
Book Trailer: The Nowhere Box
New York Times: Sunday Book Review: Siblings
Parents Magazine: Cardboard Box Crafts
Pinterest Search: Cardboard Box Creations’s Arcade: A Cardboard Arcade Made by a 9-Year-Old Boy 
“The Land of Counterpane” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Hutchins, H.J. & Herbert, G. (2008). Mattland. Ill. by Dusan Petricic. Toronto, ON: Annick Press.
Hale, C. (2012). Dreaming up: A celebration of building. New York: Lee & Low.
(see our Classroom Bookshelf entry for this title)
McLerran, A. (1991). Roxaboxen. Ill. by B. Cooney. New York: Lothrup, Lee & Shepherd.
Portis, A. (2006). Not a box. New York: HarperCollins.
Russo, M. (2000). The big brown box. New York: Greenwillow.
Sendak, M. (1964). Where the wild things are. New York: HarperCollins
Young, N. (2011). Zoomer’s summer snowstorm. New York: HarperCollins.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.