Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes

Jeanette Winter
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2014   ISBN: 978-1442499003

In New York City there is a street called Utopia Parkway. On the street there is a house, and in the house a man called Mr. Cornell used to live. If you had walked by the house a few decades ago you might have seen Mr. Cornell working in his basement.

   During the day Mr. Cornell went about his business in the city and while he did his work he looked for little objects that he could turn into works of art. When he got home he would take what he had found and he would use them to create scenes in shadow boxes. Often the scenes he created were from his own memories.  He remembered blowing soap bubbles and seeing a dancer in the snow. He remembered seeing “animals in the museum behind glass.” These memories and others were turned into shadow box scenes

   At other times the scenes in the boxes would capture moments from dreams that he had had. Mr. Cornell valued remembering, and filled journals with his thoughts and memories

   In this special picture book Jeanette Winter takes us back in time to a house in Queens where a gentle man created remarkable shadow boxes using things he found such as engravings, miniatures, small glass bottles and glasses, and countless other objects. The narrative is beautifully simple and it is paired with spare illustrations that perfectly compliment the text.

   At the back of the book readers will find an author’s note, which tells us more about Joseph Cornell and his wonderful shadow boxes.