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The Box Children

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Lou Ann Campbell is nearly twelve years old. She lives on a farm in Texas, and keeps five little dolls in a homemade shoebox house she fixed up for them. The box children are her only friends, the brothers and sisters she never had, the babies her mother was supposed to have but didn't. This is her first diary, and it's hard to hide it from her bullying older brother, her Lou Ann Campbell is nearly twelve years old. She lives on a farm in Texas, and keeps five little dolls in a homemade shoebox house she fixed up for them. The box children are her only friends, the brothers and sisters she never had, the babies her mother was supposed to have but didn't. This is her first diary, and it's hard to hide it from her bullying older brother, her philandering father, and her crazy pregnant mother. But these are her secrets, her hopes, her dreams. And this is the summer she will stop talking to dolls...and start thinking about people and places she doesn't know yet.


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Lou Ann Campbell is nearly twelve years old. She lives on a farm in Texas, and keeps five little dolls in a homemade shoebox house she fixed up for them. The box children are her only friends, the brothers and sisters she never had, the babies her mother was supposed to have but didn't. This is her first diary, and it's hard to hide it from her bullying older brother, her Lou Ann Campbell is nearly twelve years old. She lives on a farm in Texas, and keeps five little dolls in a homemade shoebox house she fixed up for them. The box children are her only friends, the brothers and sisters she never had, the babies her mother was supposed to have but didn't. This is her first diary, and it's hard to hide it from her bullying older brother, her philandering father, and her crazy pregnant mother. But these are her secrets, her hopes, her dreams. And this is the summer she will stop talking to dolls...and start thinking about people and places she doesn't know yet.

30 review for The Box Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    Lou Ann Campbell is an extremely sympathetic character. She’s the eleven-year-old narrator of Sharon Wyse’s debut novel The Box Children. “What you are reading is my diary,” Lou Ann writes. Lou Ann’s diary is a secret she keeps from her Mother, Father and older brother, Will. She lives with her family on a farm in rural Texas and it is her diary that acts as her confessor, confidante, and friend. Despite the novel’s pastoral setting: “I can put my eyes just to the top of the wheat and see the worl Lou Ann Campbell is an extremely sympathetic character. She’s the eleven-year-old narrator of Sharon Wyse’s debut novel The Box Children. “What you are reading is my diary,” Lou Ann writes. Lou Ann’s diary is a secret she keeps from her Mother, Father and older brother, Will. She lives with her family on a farm in rural Texas and it is her diary that acts as her confessor, confidante, and friend. Despite the novel’s pastoral setting: “I can put my eyes just to the top of the wheat and see the world stretch out flat to the sky,” Lou Ann says, this is a coming of age novel that is, at its core, a novel about abuse and neglect. Lou Ann’s parents are, for the most part, reprehensible. Her mother walks a fine line between disinterest and cruelty and her father is a handsome philanderer. Even the relationship between Lou Ann and her brother disintegrates (after Lou Ann rats him out over a dirty song he’s sung to her) and that leaves Lou Ann pretty much on her own. ‘The Box Children’ of the novel’s title refers to the five babies Lou Ann’s mother has lost due to miscarriage or still birth. When the novel opens, we learn that she is pregnant again. Instead of making Mother a sympathetic character, she is abhorrent. One story of how she toilet trains babies in the community is paraticularly disturbing. Additionally, it is heart-wrenching to see how Lou Ann strives to be good for her mother, to earn her love, and yet never quite manages. The Box Children is the story of a dysfunctional family but it is not without humour or hope. Lou Ann is a smart girl with a talent for music and a kind soul and one suspects that, eventually, she’ll leave the farm and go on to great things. This is a lovely book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Sometimes I think "This is an adult writing in these supposed words and thoughts of a child narrator. " It reminds me to stop myself from exclaiming how profound or extra-ordinaty this child's perceptions are.... Yet.... I also must remember how profound and extra-ordinary children's perceptions often are. This is a wise child, learning to survive in a mean-to-her world with a violent mother and an utterly ineffectual father. She is smart and curious and tests the waters of her curiosity, sometim Sometimes I think "This is an adult writing in these supposed words and thoughts of a child narrator. " It reminds me to stop myself from exclaiming how profound or extra-ordinaty this child's perceptions are.... Yet.... I also must remember how profound and extra-ordinary children's perceptions often are. This is a wise child, learning to survive in a mean-to-her world with a violent mother and an utterly ineffectual father. She is smart and curious and tests the waters of her curiosity, sometimes boldly, sometimes cautiously. Ultimately it is clear that she and her brother will somehow manage to survive childhood in more or less one piece and go on to better things. She's a good kid and this is a tender and heartfelt story.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beverley Albright

    Wow....what a book! Told from the diary of an 11 year old farm girl. Simply written, but so powerful. The poor child had some terrible and almost terrible things happen to her and she didn't have a clue. But WE did! A wonderful technique for writing. The mother in this book was as dysfunctional as they come, albeit she had a pretty good reason for some of it. The father was being a dog and then totally not understanding why he was in the doghouse! And then you hated both of them for their enablin Wow....what a book! Told from the diary of an 11 year old farm girl. Simply written, but so powerful. The poor child had some terrible and almost terrible things happen to her and she didn't have a clue. But WE did! A wonderful technique for writing. The mother in this book was as dysfunctional as they come, albeit she had a pretty good reason for some of it. The father was being a dog and then totally not understanding why he was in the doghouse! And then you hated both of them for their enabling relationship. If it is intensity at the same time as marveling at true innocence that you seek, then you need to read this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel V. Poling

    Nice quick and easy read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Saunders

    Amazing! Connects very well to the characters and to see the good, bad and ugly of life in family and friends.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I liked it but there wasn't much point to the story. It was nice seeing her grow into a stronger person and (hopefully) overcoming. I liked it but there wasn't much point to the story. It was nice seeing her grow into a stronger person and (hopefully) overcoming.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kyli

    This book is hard for me to rate, because it was such a painful read. I didn't think I could finish it. I finally decided that I wanted to try again, because I stopped reading on such a depressing note and was hoping maybe the story would become more optimistic. I couldn't get the character out of my head, so I think that says something about the quality of the writing. This was quite possibly the saddest book I've ever read. It filled me with anger and made me want to jump through the pages and This book is hard for me to rate, because it was such a painful read. I didn't think I could finish it. I finally decided that I wanted to try again, because I stopped reading on such a depressing note and was hoping maybe the story would become more optimistic. I couldn't get the character out of my head, so I think that says something about the quality of the writing. This was quite possibly the saddest book I've ever read. It filled me with anger and made me want to jump through the pages and rescue the 11 year old narrator. Seriously. It infuriated me. Luanne is an abused little girl, who's spirit and courage shine through in every single page of her diary. There is so much quiet strength in the mere fact that, despite how much she could be punished for it, she decides to keep a diary anyway. Her experiences with her mother are haunting and never have I despised a character so much in my life. I kept shaking my head the whole time, even saying aloud "What a disgusting woman" and then at moments, like Luanne, I'd find myself feeling a tinge of pity for this self-destructing character. I've never been abused as Luanne's character was, but I could identify with that time in my childhood when I changed from a girl to a young woman. I can remember the scary, awkwardness that came along with it and how it seemed, in some strange way, like my own growth had opened up doors for potentially bad things to happen. Unfortunately I think many young girls experience this feeling to a degree - there is so much confusion about what it means to become a woman. What it means to be someone's daughter, someone's wife. That was the theme I noticed through out this book and it really got me thinking about society and gender. Though few and far between, the rare tender moments between Luanne and her brother touched me. I felt for his character also - a boy struggling himself with the idea of what it means to be an adult, what it means to be a man, and sadly, it was their parents, who ultimately drove a wedge between the siblings - by the end of the story, however it seems that the children will succeed in doing what children do best; loving each other and leaning on one another. I enjoyed Earl & Lonnie's characters - without them, I'm not sure I could have kept reading. They offered a sense of hope, a glimmer of something positive. I found such beautiful irony in the fact that they were a group of random men working in a field, men who many people in that day & age would have been stereotyped as "low-class" or even dangerous, and yet their encounters with Luanne remain pleasant and comfortable. And yet, her experiences with her own father could not be any less... (Speaking of that, I wanted to jump through the pages and attack her father as well!) Overall I'm impressed by this book. The writing was honest and raw. It really felt like it was written from a child's perspective. I loved the simplicity in some of her thoughts- innocent, and yet so deep and introspective. I found myself wanting the best for her from the very first few pages. She's a character I probably will never forget. I'm only giving it 3 stars, just because as much as I was impressed by it, I can't say I enjoyed reading it, simply because it was just so painful and depressing. That being said, there is a lot of hope tucked between each sentence - which is exactly what has always fascinated me about abused children; their ability to be like flowers growing through cement, the way they can find and hold onto the tiny, good things and forge through all of the terrible things that happen to them. Because of that, it was definitely worth the read. Just keep some tissues nearby and definitely don't read it if you're already in a not-so-good mood!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Elinore

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was DEFINITELY not what I was expecting. I had found out about it through the "Readers Also Enjoyed Similar Books" while I was looking at a different book, though I can't remember which one it was. The Mother is such an interesting character to me because seems to have standing in the community (mothers take their children to her for her particular brand of "unorthodox" potty-training) even though she has these wild outbursts such as her dying her hair and forcing her daughter to dress/act This was DEFINITELY not what I was expecting. I had found out about it through the "Readers Also Enjoyed Similar Books" while I was looking at a different book, though I can't remember which one it was. The Mother is such an interesting character to me because seems to have standing in the community (mothers take their children to her for her particular brand of "unorthodox" potty-training) even though she has these wild outbursts such as her dying her hair and forcing her daughter to dress/act like a "tramp". A great quote that sums up the Mother and also her relationship to Daddy as well was on page 179, "My brother said, I thought Daddy was the boss of things but it turned out he isn't. Sometimes he is, I said. He just has to keep on right the track with Mother. My brother said, Bosses don't have to keep on the right track. They own the track." I was also very interested in how Alva Higgins fit into the story. Both Lou Ann and Alva are taking care of themselves, though Lou Ann seems to be taking care of her family as well. I actually felt a bit sad for Lou Ann that Alva was so adamant about keeping to herself and not having any friends because they seemed to have so much in common and could have been good friends. There is a bit of an age difference but I hope that Lou Ann and the hired hand Lonnie might become sort of couple. He just seems so sweet and one of the few characters that actually seemed like he was not concerned with just his own self interests. When Les, the other hired hand, updated Lou Ann on her Mother's condition I really thought that it was brilliantly worded and it gave a rightful conclusion to a household of so much turmoil. On page 178, "He said Loretta is OK but the baby never had a chance and there won't be any more after this. Nature isn't perfect, he said. Mother has to stay a few days and Daddy is staying with her."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ilyhana Kennedy

    The first thing this novel does is undermine its credibility. A twelve year old girl from this social environment does not write so prolifically. A quick glimpse through later pages and the reader is expected to credit that in two a half months she has written the equivalent of a novel. So the framework for the story is jettisoned from the start. It could have been written very effectively with just excerpts from her diary. The child's voice is authentic but her writing is not and the occasional The first thing this novel does is undermine its credibility. A twelve year old girl from this social environment does not write so prolifically. A quick glimpse through later pages and the reader is expected to credit that in two a half months she has written the equivalent of a novel. So the framework for the story is jettisoned from the start. It could have been written very effectively with just excerpts from her diary. The child's voice is authentic but her writing is not and the occasional misspelled word does not make it so. OK so I climbed over that one and worked on ignoring the diary thing as though I was just listening to a story. But the diary became an instrument in the dynamics so I found myself distracted. This is such a shame as the novel otherwise has much to commend it. It's a dark tale, coming from a place of innocence, a learning to survive, to cope, to win out. But in that we see the development of an attitude not just of resilience but the other side of the coin...of being inured to pain of all kinds and abuse. The character development is executed with finesse. The mother and father are frighteningly vivid. I wouldn't say it's an enjoyable read but as a debut novel it holds promise. I think the author has the capacity to tread a thin wire between the truth of real life psychological violence and the "glamour" of a psychological thriller.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    I really liked this book, narrated by a young girl, written in diary form. Here is a brief review of the book by the author: Eleven-year-old Lou Ann Campbell starts a diary on scraps of paper that she hides from her mother in a barrel behind the bunkhouse on her family's Texas wheat farm. Lou Ann's mother has had five miscarriages and Lou Ann has created the box children--five plastic dolls who live in a shoe box--to memorialize these "ghost babies." The Box Children is Lou Ann's secret diary. Th I really liked this book, narrated by a young girl, written in diary form. Here is a brief review of the book by the author: Eleven-year-old Lou Ann Campbell starts a diary on scraps of paper that she hides from her mother in a barrel behind the bunkhouse on her family's Texas wheat farm. Lou Ann's mother has had five miscarriages and Lou Ann has created the box children--five plastic dolls who live in a shoe box--to memorialize these "ghost babies." The Box Children is Lou Ann's secret diary. Through her spare, sure voice, we share Lou Ann's experiences over the course of one extraordinary summer. The Box Children is also a record of Lou Ann's relationships--with her unstable and cruel mother, who intrudes into every aspect of Lou Ann's life; her adulterous father, whose relative sweetness compels Lou Ann to excuse serious excesses in behavior; her older brother, who rejects her as he struggles with what it means to "be a man"; and with the box children, who become her only companions. Charming, jolting, and haunting, The Box Children chronicles Lou Ann's unflinching search for a connection to the wide world outside her farm. The Box Children, by Sharon Wyse

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm surprised Oprah hasn't stamped her seal of approval on this one. Lou Ann has relatives with a tendency to touch her inappropriately and a pretty depressing life. I thought the writing was very good, though it tended to be sparse at times. However, I find certain parts sort of hard to believe. *****************Spoiler ahead....*************** I don't know why any man who drinks in a story and is a father of a young girl automatically goes off to fondle her. Sometimes it seems like I was very I'm surprised Oprah hasn't stamped her seal of approval on this one. Lou Ann has relatives with a tendency to touch her inappropriately and a pretty depressing life. I thought the writing was very good, though it tended to be sparse at times. However, I find certain parts sort of hard to believe. *****************Spoiler ahead....*************** I don't know why any man who drinks in a story and is a father of a young girl automatically goes off to fondle her. Sometimes it seems like I was very, very, very protected because almost every child in every work of fiction has to go through being molested. I don't think incest or child molestation is a rare thing, but I also don't think it happens to everyone, so I don't understand why it is in almost every work of modern fiction. I don't want to sound insensitive, but sometimes it seems like a writing ploy because it happens so often in books.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    The Box Children is written in the form of a diary of twelve year old Lou Ann. The writing style was difficult to adapt to at first. There is no punctuation, and sometimes words are misspelled or phrases don't make sense. However, the author does a great job of making it read just like a twelve year old girl's diary, so I'll give credit where it's due. Lou Ann's story is very dark, but her acute observations of her family life are downright hilarious. Every time you think things cannot get worse The Box Children is written in the form of a diary of twelve year old Lou Ann. The writing style was difficult to adapt to at first. There is no punctuation, and sometimes words are misspelled or phrases don't make sense. However, the author does a great job of making it read just like a twelve year old girl's diary, so I'll give credit where it's due. Lou Ann's story is very dark, but her acute observations of her family life are downright hilarious. Every time you think things cannot get worse for Lou Ann, they do. But she shows such a great deal of resiliency it seems to work out in the end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I’m not sure what made me finally pick up this book from my shelves, but I’m glad I did! Although when I began this novel, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the diary format and lack of correct punctuation used, but I quickly became involved in the story of Lou Ann’s pain and her deep sense of hope. It didn’t take long for me to wish I could scoop this child up into my arms and hug her tight, taking her away from all the saddness. "The Box Children" is an engaging, quick read (a couple of hours, maybe I’m not sure what made me finally pick up this book from my shelves, but I’m glad I did! Although when I began this novel, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the diary format and lack of correct punctuation used, but I quickly became involved in the story of Lou Ann’s pain and her deep sense of hope. It didn’t take long for me to wish I could scoop this child up into my arms and hug her tight, taking her away from all the saddness. "The Box Children" is an engaging, quick read (a couple of hours, maybe) that I would definitely recommend!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I really though this book was written well and captures the voice of this little girl. The most interesting part for me was her perceptions of her mother and the rest of the family. It had innocence to it. Through her eyes she shares her journey into womanhood and goes from honoring parents and not questioning to having opinions of her own and seeing her family as they are. It really makes me think of how children perceive and react to what goes on with families (good and bad). Although it is no I really though this book was written well and captures the voice of this little girl. The most interesting part for me was her perceptions of her mother and the rest of the family. It had innocence to it. Through her eyes she shares her journey into womanhood and goes from honoring parents and not questioning to having opinions of her own and seeing her family as they are. It really makes me think of how children perceive and react to what goes on with families (good and bad). Although it is not a light happy story, I was glad I read it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I really enjoyed this book. The book is written in the format of a diary from an eleven year old girl. She is going through was difficult experiences with a mother who is less than nurturing and kind. This young girl's inner strength is tangible and yet she is not even aware of it. It is a sad book and yet it made me realize how often in our own lives, the things that are difficult for us to endure, are the exact circumstances that make us strong and help us become who ewe are ultimately meant t I really enjoyed this book. The book is written in the format of a diary from an eleven year old girl. She is going through was difficult experiences with a mother who is less than nurturing and kind. This young girl's inner strength is tangible and yet she is not even aware of it. It is a sad book and yet it made me realize how often in our own lives, the things that are difficult for us to endure, are the exact circumstances that make us strong and help us become who ewe are ultimately meant to be. A good story of perseverance and learning to cope with the "lot" we've been given.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This book was a coming of age story written in diary entry form by a little girl that was 12. The year was 1960 and her family farmed wheat. She writes about her normal day to day life, what her parents are like and what her toughts and dreams are. In the beginning she seems a little afraid of who she is and maybe a little ashamed. In the end she is proud of who she is and starts standing up for herself. This was a good quick read, but it was a little sad. This young girl definitely did not have This book was a coming of age story written in diary entry form by a little girl that was 12. The year was 1960 and her family farmed wheat. She writes about her normal day to day life, what her parents are like and what her toughts and dreams are. In the beginning she seems a little afraid of who she is and maybe a little ashamed. In the end she is proud of who she is and starts standing up for herself. This was a good quick read, but it was a little sad. This young girl definitely did not have an easy life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodhouse

    This was a really good book, I feel that I can't justify it by writing a review. It was the sort of book I'm speed-reading through because I so badly need to know what happens next. I felt deeply for Lou Ann and had a ton of trouble even taking short breaks from the book, which is amazing as it's the first paperback I've read in a while. The only reason I'm giving four stars instead of five is I don't feel it really wrapped up, simply stopped - I wish the author had said more, or transitioned to This was a really good book, I feel that I can't justify it by writing a review. It was the sort of book I'm speed-reading through because I so badly need to know what happens next. I felt deeply for Lou Ann and had a ton of trouble even taking short breaks from the book, which is amazing as it's the first paperback I've read in a while. The only reason I'm giving four stars instead of five is I don't feel it really wrapped up, simply stopped - I wish the author had said more, or transitioned to a future point as it seemed the story was not over.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    A sad novel about a brave eleven-year old girl who lives life with a deranged father, and an even more deranged mother. It follows less than a year of her life through diary entries she makes. The writer did a great job of making the entries very child-like. I truly felt I was reading this little girl's diary. Quick read...just a few hours. Overall I found it interesting, though definitely not one of my favorite books. A sad novel about a brave eleven-year old girl who lives life with a deranged father, and an even more deranged mother. It follows less than a year of her life through diary entries she makes. The writer did a great job of making the entries very child-like. I truly felt I was reading this little girl's diary. Quick read...just a few hours. Overall I found it interesting, though definitely not one of my favorite books.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Another tough read about a family with difficult relationships. This story written in the form of a child’s diary has a deep feeling of authenticity, like it was written from the heart by child who doesn’t quite understand her mother or her father or her brother or anyone else really. A week of tragic tales. I tell you, if Rowling kills off Harry tomorrow, I’m foreswearing books.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brandy

    This book was really good and kept me reading but I have issues with books like this. I feel like there is no finality to them and we don't learn what happened to the main characters. I also hate the subleties of what is implied is done to Lour Ann in terms of abuse. It would almost be better if the author came right out and said what happened. This book was really good and kept me reading but I have issues with books like this. I feel like there is no finality to them and we don't learn what happened to the main characters. I also hate the subleties of what is implied is done to Lour Ann in terms of abuse. It would almost be better if the author came right out and said what happened.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    I read this book in fifth grade. I'm 21 now and I still think about it from time to time. The writing feels so genuine, not like somebody trying to force themselves into a headspace that doesn't belong to them. The book is filled with the unwitting poignancy and keen observations that children are known for. It's touchy at times, but by the end you'll feel like you've made a friend. I read this book in fifth grade. I'm 21 now and I still think about it from time to time. The writing feels so genuine, not like somebody trying to force themselves into a headspace that doesn't belong to them. The book is filled with the unwitting poignancy and keen observations that children are known for. It's touchy at times, but by the end you'll feel like you've made a friend.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sandi Davis

    This was actually the second time I read this book, my book club was reading it. It's a diary written by a little girl, an easy read but a little haunting because it makes you think if something like this could really happen to a poor little girl. And yes, I believe there are more strange families than we like to admit. This was actually the second time I read this book, my book club was reading it. It's a diary written by a little girl, an easy read but a little haunting because it makes you think if something like this could really happen to a poor little girl. And yes, I believe there are more strange families than we like to admit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    This was extremely good. I'm actually suprised I had time to read it. However I feel myself crying at a point and laughing at a point. This book is so unexpected because it makes a person think just from so little words. This was extremely good. I'm actually suprised I had time to read it. However I feel myself crying at a point and laughing at a point. This book is so unexpected because it makes a person think just from so little words.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dora

    This is a wonderfully written book told by a very smart girl in rural 1960s Texas. Be warned, however, that if you are easily offended by language, racism or inappropriate parenting, this book is probably not for you.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    This book is well written, sad, funny, moving. The author manages to succinctly tell the story through the eyes of a wise-beyond-her-years young girl that is so likeable I wanted to pluck her from the story and give her a better life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    LaLa

    a perfect postcard of a book. tiny and i wouldn't change a single word. a perfect postcard of a book. tiny and i wouldn't change a single word.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mom

    Distrbing but beautifully written. Grabbed my heart and twisted it from the very first page.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer McMurrain

    Know the author, it's awesome, set in Darrouzett, TX. Know the author, it's awesome, set in Darrouzett, TX.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    If you liked THE GLASS CASTLE you will like this bk.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Ciancaglione

    Very disturbing book!!! I was shocked how this book turned out! I expected more but it was ok.

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