Review: The Box Boy by Mal Webster

The Box Boy is the whole package as a picture book…literally. Author/illustrator Mal Webster has cleverly designed his book to resemble the cardboard boxes of his subject. The back of the book  has ripped packing tape and cardboard corrugations, while the end papers contain address labels and packaging symbols. An interesting exercise for a child to work out how a book is like a box…

The Box Boy loves to collect things, especially boxes. He’s a true recycler and a model for sustainability as he builds structures out of cardboard boxes which are simply too good to throw away. He becomes famous after he conststructs a model of the Eiffel Tower but soon tires of fame and returns home to come up with new ideas.

Webster admits that the box boy is really a younger version of himself. A teacher/author/illustrator and graphic designer, Webster created The Box Collecting Boy for his Master’s degree in Visual Arts and Design at Latrobe Uni. Prior to publication, his work was on display so if you’d like to see a picture of his real Eiffel tower, you can do so here. The Box Boy is published as a Helen Chamberlin book by Windy Hollow Books. Formerly at Lothian, Chamberlin is a multi- award winning doyen of Australian childrens publishing.

I see this book as leading to all sorts of exciting activities centred around materials testing and construction. Measuring (maths) and art can also be incorporated. Cardboard is used widely for a variety of purposes because it’s lightweight, strong, cheap…Students could come up with lists of where and why cardboard is used.

You can find some information on the properties of cardboard here, or through any simple google search. The Box Boy isn’t the only one who would like to live in a cardboard box. There is a lot of research into using it as a sustainable building material and again, a simple search on the net will lead you to lots of articles and pictures. Try here as a starting point.

Cardboard is also used as a furniture material. I found some great pictures here but I’m sure children will enjoy collecting their own pictures.

Students could come up with their own experiments, to develop science inquiry skills, such as insulating properties of cardboard or biodegradability. They could look at why corrugated cardboard is stronger than plain cardboard.

Overall, I loved the simplicity of this book, with it’s cheeky little boy and his fantastic creations. There’s also a nice little message about fame not being all it’s cracked up to be and that life should be about creating things that are worthwhile.

National Curriculum applications: ( from /

Chemical sciences (Foundation)

Objects are made of materials that have observable properties.

  • sorting and grouping materials on the basis of observable properties such as colour, texture and flexibility
  • thinking about how the materials used in buildings and shelters are suited to the local environment

Chemical sciences (Year 1)

Everydaymaterials can be physically changed in a variety of ways

Chemical sciences (Year 2)

Different materials can be combined, including by mixing, for a particular purpose

  • exploring the local environment to observe a variety of materials, and describing ways in which materials are usedr
  • suggesting why different parts of everyday objects such as toys and clothes are made from different materials
  • identifying materials such as paper that can be changed and remade or recycled into new products

Chemical sciences (Year 4)

Natural and processed materials have a range of physical properties; These properties can influence their use

  • describing a range of common materials, such as metals or plastics, and their uses
  • investigating a particular property across a range of materials
  • selecting materials for uses based on their properties
  • considering how the properties of materials affect the management of waste or can lead to pollution

Science Inquiry Skills (all levels)

  • Questioning and Predicting
  • Planning and Conducting
  • Pocessing and Analysing
  • Communicating

Author: Mal Webster

Illustrator: Mal Webster

Windy Hollow Books, 2011

ISBN 9781921136504



Filed under Foundation, Level 1, Level 4, Science Inquiry Skills

2 responses to “Review: The Box Boy by Mal Webster

  1. What a great way to promote science! Keep up the good work, Cat! 🙂

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