I often will read the dedications to get a glimpse of the author’s life. I wonder how the people named touched the life of an author. In Boxes for Katje, Candace Fleming’s dedication states: “To Mom, for sharing her life’s stories.“ It roused my curiosity, and so looked for the author’s note. I was pleased to find on the end sleeve that Candace shares “A True Story about Boxes.“ She states that the book is “based on events that really happened. In May 1945, my mother sent a small box to Europe.” Because Candace’s mother shared a story from her childhood, a book was created to touch people’s hearts. How many life stories do we have that will change someone’s life? More than we think. We need to teach our children that life stories are important to share and holding on to memories can create hope for someone else.
Boxes for Katje begins in Olst, Holland in 1945. Stacey Dressen-McQueen adds to the beginning text by illustrating another little girl, Rosie, mailing a package. A little girl named Katje receives the package from America containing four items: a bar of soap, wool socks, a chocolate bar, and a letter. Holland had been hit hard during World War II and the people’s needs were great. Candace Fleming states in her introduction, “They patched and repatched their worn-thin clothing, and they went without soap or milk, sugar or new shoes.”
Katje, from the start, unselfishly shares her gifts with her neighbors. In our country of plenty, even in this economic struggle, we take for granted so many of life’s pleasures. This book continues to show how Katje shares what she receives. She writes letters of gratitude to Rosie, who in turns creates more awareness with her community of Mayfield, Indiana. In the end, Katje sends a gift to her American friend, Rosie – tulips. Notice how Stacey Dressen-McQueen illustrates the before and after scenes of Mayfield, Indiana in the end sleeves. I think this book paves the way for discussion on philanthropy and thinking of others.
Savorings for reading and in writing for Boxes for Katje:
- Hybrid text – letters are displayed as the story goes from one scene to the next
- Illustrations – inlays from each country/community to see the events between the pen pals
- Highlighting scenes – creating a story with
- Passage of Time – the seasons and its hardships create the passing of time: “Weeks passed, and winter roared in, snow-deep and bitter cold, the worst winter anyone could remember.”
- Philanthropy – learning to give to others; excellent for Thanksgiving season
- Math connection and superlatives: comparison of packages beginning small and getting bigger each time; big, bigger, biggest