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Boxes for Katje

Last updated Thursday, July 16, 2009

Author: Candace Fleming
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 0374309221
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2009

Synopsis: In May 1945, a Dutch girl named Katje is thrilled to receive a letter and a package of socks, soap, and chocolate from Rosie, a girl she doesn't know who lives in Mayfield, Indiana. The kids start to exchange letters, and when Rosie's family members learn of Holland's severe post-war deprivations, they enlist Mayfield residents to send food and clothes to Katje, who generously shares the gifts with others in her community. The sense of suffering isn't strong here, in part because the Dutch townspeople are almost always depicted as smiling about the packages. But the story is still moving, and Dressen-McQueen's lively illustrations, in colored pencil, oil pastel, and acrylic, pack lots of color, pattern, and historical details onto every expansive page. Fleming based the book on her mother's experience, which she describes in an author's note; in the real-life story, however, adults, not children, orchestrated the events, a finding that may be a little disappointing to kids who took the book, with its specific dates, town names, and heroic, generous children, as straight fact.

Note to readers:
•  Note: Read the end notes in the back of the book

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you know where Holland is?
•  Do you like getting packages?
•  Does this story take place here in America, in Los Angeles? Why not (snow)?
•  Do the characters on the cover dress like people now? (Scarves on head on shoulders)

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you get packages from other places?
•  Have you ever sent a package to someone else?
•  What would you put in your package for another child in another country?
•  Would you help people that have less than you?
•  How would you help them?
•  Can you help them without spending money? (Make them something, help them run errands, make and send a card).
•  Do you think the people who sent these packages were heros? Why?

Craft ideas:
•  Make paper tulips.
•  Write or draw a thank-you card to somebody who has helped you in your life.
•  Make a father’s day card.
•  Make a list and draw a picture of all the items you would send to a child or family in a poorer place.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!