Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

Posted May 19, 2012 by Tara in Challenges /// 11 Comments

This cover art is from the final story, Kibuishi’s “The Escape Option.”

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes (Graphic Novel)
Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Harry N. Abrams
Library copy from Junior Library Guild
[#41 in my 75 book challenge]

I picked up this book from our most recent Junior Library Guild order, intending to just flip through it and see what it was about. I ended up reading the entire thing.

Essentially, this is a graphic novel short story collection all on the same theme: mystery boxes. Each story has a different author/artist and style, but all have an element of fantasy to them. Including lots of unicorns. There are seven stories:

  1. Under the Floorboards by Emily Carroll – A wax doll comes to life, helping and hindering a girl in her chores.
  2. Spring Cleaning by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier – A puzzle box is found in a messy closet, and some wizards are willing to pay a lot of money for it. But why?
  3. The Keeper’s Treasure by Jason Caffoe – A treasure hunter seeks a treasure inside a labyrinth, and is curious about what is inside the treasure box.
  4. The Butter Thief by Rad Sechrist – A spirit is stealing butter, so grandma traps the spirit and buries it in the backyard. Her grandmother is curious and investigates the box.
  5. The Soldier’s Daughter by Stuart Livingston – A girl goes on a quest to avenge her father’s death, but a magical box shows her some truths about life and war.
  6. Whatzit by Johane Matte – A little alien is put in charge of a a checklist for shipping boxes, but he opens one that makes his job a little harder.
  7. The Escape Option by Kazu Kibuishi – A boy is sucked into a spaceship box and told of a choice he must make to save the world.

The stories are short and cute, but they also have some interesting depth to them. The artwork is beautiful in some stories and brilliant in others, as there is a nice variety in styles and tones. Some stories feel dark, some epic, and some just fun. My favorite was Spring Cleaning because I enjoy Raina Telgemeier’s art and I liked the fun tone of the story. I also liked the ending to The Escape Option because I didn’t see the twist coming. It’s good when a 15-page story can give me a twist ending, that’s not an easy feat — especially with a graphic novel.

FINAL GRADE:  C  I give it a C based on my personal taste (it was average), but a B for my library and my students. This is not a book I read for me, but one I read for my kids. Boys and girls alike with appreciate this little collection. They will love it, like they love all graphic novels! But this one will surely stayed checked out more than it’s on my shelf. I also like the potential for using this as a jumping off point for a writing exercise, since each story takes on a common theme, kids could write their own story about a mysterious box. I might even be inspired to do so!

What would your story about a mysterious box be?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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11 responses to “Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

  1. loveyalitem

    I loved The Butter Thief and Under the Floorboards the most. Overall, thought this was a fun, creative, quick read.

  2. Ooooh, I’m so happy you brought this one to my attention! I’m sorry that it didn’t fit your personal tastes just right, but I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy it a bit more. I hadn’t heard of this one, but as a lover of both short stories and graphic novels, I think it might be a good fit! I’m glad that you read this one for your kids, and that it’s working for them even if it didn’t entirely work for you!

    • Miss Anderson

      I still consider a C book a good book. I’m just a really tough grader! But I sent this one home with a sixth grader and he came back to tell me it was his new favorite book. Score!

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