my thoughts on motherhood, kids, books and stuff

My Thoughts on Toni Morrison’s: “The Big Box”

I was browsing books by Toni Morrison last week on Amazon and came across a children’s book she wrote called, along with her son Slade, called The Big Box. I am a fan of Toni Morrison so I logged into the King County Library System website and put the book on hold.

the big box

I picked up the book today and couldn’t wait to read it so I read it in the parking lot of the library while my kids whined about their hunger.

The book is about three children, Patty and Mickey and Liza Sue, who are told “you just can’t handle your freedom” and imprisoned to live in a cardboard box.  They are showered with every materialistic thing their little hearts could desire and visited once a week by their parents, who come bearing gifts.

It is sad as the “teachers who love her”, the “tenants who love him”, and the “neighbors who love her”, talk to each of the children to explain to them that they can’t handle their freedom so they are going to be sent away.  Each child answers in confusion with the things that they are doing right.  Mickey replies, “But I comb my hair and I don’t do drugs, and every day I vacuum the rugs.”

The empty and sad looks on the faces of the children as they sit in their cardboard box surrounded by toys, junk food, and entertainment is heartbreaking and as a parent it really made me think about my own children.

How many times have I called the kids into the house and told them to watch television or play Nintendo for awhile because I was tired of them throwing dirt clods at the house, making mud “soup” when they weren’t supposed to be playing in the water, or screaming because one of the others was tying them to the oak tree?

A lot of times it is easier to throw toys, goodies, or entertainment at our kids so that we don’t have to deal “right now” with a behavior. And most importantly, there are many times that the poor behavior is not really poor behavior, but a demonstration of creativity or just being a KID!

Also, it demonstrates that it is not things that children want, but our time. That is something we hear and think we understand as parents, but to truly grasp it takes a lot more thought and effort than one would imagine.

Brett and I both strongly believe that children should be respectful and we enforce that, but I will be thinking a lot more about the motivation behind the action next time I jump to discipline one of my children.

Reading through the reviews on Amazon it is clear that this book can be interpreted in many ways and there are many who think this book is not for young children. My kids are mature enough to hear it. I will read it to them tomorrow and see how they react. 

There are so many meanings that can be taken from this book. I would love to hear from others that have read it!


  • I’m going to have to check out this book too. It sounds like a good reminder and touching message.

  • It looks interesting, I’ll have to check it out. It’s almost saying that the kids can’t handle the power of their own imagination and creativity and all the ‘stuff’ insulates them from trying to use it.

  • That does sound really interesting! I will have to see if I can find it in our library.
    Thanks for posting!

  • See there you go getting me to think again. Good thing I came over to the nutritional blog aisle when I did.

  • Sus

    Hi – Thanks for this; I’ll check it out. Every time I catch myself mad at Frannie for making a mess in one way or another, I have to stop and try to remember that it is how she is learning and growing, one mess after another. Quiet, Control Freak Side of Self! Let Your CHild Be! Maybe YOU Should Go Make a Mess With Her!

    PS. Forgot to mention- awesome picture of Anna on the Foiled Plans post above. 🙂