Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Max’s Box helps kids manage emotions

Max’s Box, by Brian Wray/Illustrated by Shiloh Penfield, (Sept. 2019, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764358043

Ages 4-8

A young boy named Max receives a box from his parents; they tell him he can put everything in the box, so he starts putting his favorite toys in the box but quickly discovers that he can put feelings and emotions in the box, too. Unfortunately, as Max adds feelings to the box – hurt, embarrassment, frustration – the box becomes bigger and heavier to bear, and Max’s quality of life is affected: he can’t do things he used to enjoy, like riding a bike or climbing trees, because of the unwieldy, enormous box. Luckily, a prospective friend and a ladybug lead Max to a joyful, creative solution.

Max’s Box is a clean, easy-to-understand story about emotions, and how suppressing them can cast a shadow over everything we do. As the box first becomes loaded with Max’s physical clutter, his parents buy him a wagon to tote it around, asking him if the Box is getting too big for him. Max’s response, “I can carry it”, will resonate with adults and kids who feel like negative emotions can be a burden on others.  All it takes as a boy willing to keep Max company and a surprise visit from a ladybug to lift Max’s spirits and give him an idea: to create the image of a balloon, floating away; other see this and contribute their own balloons, communicating the value of creative visualization. The grey and white artwork gradually fills in with bright colors as Max and others lighten their loads, sending physical and emotional baggage free. As Max’s dad says, “It’s ok to have all kinds of feelings… but once you feel them, their job is done”. An author note about expressing emotion offers tips for adults who want to help children healthily manage and express their emotions.

A good read-aloud for younger grades that invites discussion. I’d love to see some parent-educator resources for this.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

5 thoughts on “Max’s Box helps kids manage emotions

      1. No luck but I will suggest it as a purchase. I know we are keen to support social emotional learning, as local research in particular has shown that’s the main area where the kids we serve struggle.

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