Tomorrow is Halloween, so I thought it would be a nice time to share a fun book that has become a favorite at School4Boys this week.
The Spooky Box
Written and illustrated by Mark Gonyea
Henry Holt and Co., 2013
What is inside the spooky box? It could be spiders, rats, or evil puppets, but the author/Illustrator won’t tell. YOU, dear reader, will have to just imagine that for yourself.
This book is fun, interactive, and just a little bit spooky. Utilizing just three colors and very simple shapes, the illustrations are bold and graphically stunning. Partnering with those fantastic pictures the text uses a nervous narrator, and the building of tension to tell the story of a box with unknown contents. The book invites reader participation by using sly humor, questions, and the reader’s natural curiosity to make for a rollicking good time of trying to figure out just what is inside the spooky box, and then the ever smaller spooky nesting boxes that are eventually found to be inside. The Spooky Box lends itself naturally to the making of predictions and inferences, creative thinking, and fun reading extensions.
The Spooky Box has provided a springboard for lots of fun for us at School4Boys.
A. really liked this book, and requested that we read it several times. He was drawn to the cover, amused by the premise, and liked thinking of possibilities for the contents of the box. After finishing this book’s open ending, I asked A. what he thought was in the last spooky box. He said, “ more and more boxes forever and to infinity.”
After our initial reading we decided to make some spooky boxes of our own. A. had shown interest in Modge Podge while making some Halloween decorations last week. This surprised me because it is goopy and got on his hands, but he wanted to try it again. We decided to decoupage our spooky box. I purchased some nesting papier mache boxes specifically for this activity because it made it easier. You could obviously collect cardboard boxes in different sizes too.
Having done this type of activity before, and wanting to improve on my last attempt (don’t ask), I began by covering the large box with black construction paper and Elmer’s glue. This didn’t take long at all. Then I set out black bleeding tissue paper, Modge Podge, and foam brushes. A. was happy to work on this for a while, but soon his hands were getting goopy and discolored, and he was done. I finished the messy tissue paper part, and then when it was dry, he was happy to put the final coat on the project. By using construction paper under the tissue, I only had to cover the box with one layer of tissue and Modge Podge over the top to get good coverage and opaque color.
For the second box we used paint (far less goopy, so A was happy to participate.) I sealed the papier mache box with Modge Podge and let it dry before adding the paint, and I found that this helped cut down on the number of coats of paint that were needed. Cardboard and papier mache can really suck up the paint!
For the smallest boxes, I loved that A. wanted to make them “happy, not spooky,” so he chose to make them yellow.
After the boxes were dry, we devised some fun uses for them.
For our second reading of the book, I placed some Halloween themed party favors in each of the boxes. As we read the story, and the boxes inside the boxes got smaller I let A. open the boxes one by one and pull a trinket out of each box when appropriate in the story. This was a hit! I didn’t do this on our first reading because I wanted A. to draw his own conclusions about what was in the box on the first go-round. A. also had fun stacking the boxes in different configurations. Then he did something that I thought was great (but I am his mom, so I might be biased). We had put an orange plastic table cloth on the table for our Halloween party pn Sunday. It was both festive and functional as a table protector during our crafts, so I left it on after the party. Adam noticed that the boxes on the orange background looked like the cover of the book, so he took some leftover scraps of black tissue and squished them together to make bats, and then recreated the cover illustration. I love when spontaneous things like that happen! I am always amazed at what kids come up with on their own if they have the opportunities of time, space, and materials.
After reading it was time to play an inferring game. A. has already shown strength in making inferences, so I want to build on that during read-aloud activities. For the game, I found objects of different sizes that would go in the boxes. I created clue sets for each object (a series of four clues moving from broad information to more specific information) and taped them to the appropriate boxes. Then I read the clues one at a time. After each clue I allowed A. to make two predictions about what was in the box. He really enjoyed this activity. So much so, that he wanted to play the game too. So, he then selected secret objects and put them in the boxes. He gave me the clues orally, and really came up with some really good clues. He asked to play the game again tomorrow!
Here are two examples of my clue sets:
I am round.
I grow in the ground
I am orange.
I have a face and a smile.
I am a jack o’ lantern.
I am a toy.
I am made of wood.
I have wheels.
I run on tracks.
I am a train.
You get the idea.
The Spooky Box was a really fun read-aloud book, and it gave us the opportunity to work on comprehension, do crafts (great fine motor work), and have a good time without feeling forced. Not a bad deal!
My friend Jodie at the terrific early literacy blog Growing Book By Book, created a super fun book-themed game to develop inferring skills too. You can find it by clicking here.
I hope you check out The Spooky Box and have some fun with it.