Sunday, February 13, 2011

Children's Book Monday

by Alice McLerran
illustrated by Barbara Cooney

We were given a used copy of this book years ago, when Corban was two. Little did I know then, as I tucked it away for when he was older, it would be so treasured in our home that even the current two-year-old adores the story, the pictures, the magic that is Roxaboxen.

Every child who has ever created a fort out of blankets and couch cushions, every little boy who has built a tree house with cast off wood and bent nails, every little girl who has laid a tea table on an old stump with mud pies for lunch and rainwater for tea... has created a Roxaboxen. Yours truly included.

In the dry, dusty little town of Yuma, Arizona, more than eighty years ago, the children of that small town climbed the rocky hill nearby and created their own, secret place.

Using old wooden boxes they made tables, shelves and chairs. Laying white stones in straight lines they created streets. Even pieces of pottery and shards of colored glass created dishes... and beauty.

Over time the children elected a mayor; here is where the beauty of the simple poetry-like script is most evident to me:

Later on there was a town hall.
Marian was mayor, of course;
that was just the way she was.
Nobody minded.

Using black pebbles they had found buried up on Roxaboxen, the children set up a bakery and two ice cream parlors, trading precious black pebbles for bread baked warm in the sun. And everyone had a car, simply using something round for a steering wheel! But take care: Jamie was the policeman, and if you broke the speed limit, you went to jail- and the cactus on the floor was meant to bring discomfort! More sweet, childlike poetry-script:

Anna May,
quiet little Anna May,
was always speeding-
you'd think she liked to go to jail.

Wars, bandit chases, fierce raids, boys against girls... but when you reached your fort, you were safe.

And every single person who reads this book will breathe the same sigh of relief, remembering battles and escapes that led back to our safe place as children, whether boards nailed in a tree, a soft house made out of blankets and cushions, or even our mother's apron.

Barbara Cooney (found many, many times on CBM) illustrated this fine book by taking a trip to the desert with the author's eighty-year-old Aunt Frances (former Roxaboxenite), and though the hill was overgrown and broken glass scattered about, the town of Roxaboxen came to life again through Aunt Frances' eyes, and spilled into Ms. Cooney's beautiful watercolors.

Happy Reading!

3 fellow travelers shared:

Heather@Cultivated Lives said...

Our family loves Roxaboxen!!! We live in the southwest desert (about 2 hours from Yuma), so having a nature, imaginative play inspiring book that incorporates our desert home is a special treat!

joanna said...

we LOVED that book. so fun and encourages such creative play. love it.

Emily said...

Hi Elise! I just wanted to leave a comment to say that the Lord laid your family on my heart this morning. Praying that He would be near to you.

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