Review: The Treasure Box By Keane & Bell

Today I share a book that I love and dread all at once. Dread in a good way, like no matter how hard I try not to, I cry when reading it. A tender book about grandparents, their beloved grandchildren and the special connection they have with each other. A book about love and loss. Come and see The Treasure Box by Dave Keane, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, 2022.

Little girl with a black braid and tan skin holds a yellow box in one arm while she places a black speckled feather onto a table holding a green figure, snake skin, egg, and part of a nest.

The story opens with a little girl searching for special things. She collects them in a special box with a latch. She loves to share them with her grandpa. When he comes over, she has to wait for him to chat with her parents before they sneak away to look at her treasures.

On the left page, the little girl takes a step onto a stair, holding her grandpa's hand and leading him up the stairs. On the right page, the grandpa and girl sit on her bed with a blue bedspread. He holds his magnifying glass and she is opening the yellow box.

She really loves the funny faces her grandpa makes when looking at and touching different ones. And then they set out to search for new treasures together. It’s their special activity.

The girl and grandpa are sitting on her bed. He is holding the snake skin and making a crazy face about it. She is flopped over the edge of the bed laughing and holding her belly. Her little black dog sniffs at her.

But then her grandpa gets sick. He can’t visit anymore, so she looks through the treasures and thinks about him. When she finally gets to visit him, she takes a few new ones to show him. “He likes them so much, he cries a little bit.”

The grandpa sits in a rocking chair with a tube coming out of his nose. The little girl sits on his lap, wrapped in a blanket. She is holding a key and a pinecone for him to see.

Eventually, her grandpa dies. She processes it by looking at his pictures at the memorial and saying goodbye in her heart; but she can’t open her box. It makes her too sad.

After a long time, her grammy comes to visit. After visiting with her parents for a while, she goes up to the little girl’s room to give her some special things her grandpa left for her. The little girl decides to show Grammy their special collection. They share memories and cry about him. And then they start the treasure seeking activity again… together.

The mom and dad sit on the edge of the girl's bed looking at her as she looks out a dreary looking window with her arm around her dog.

This book just gets me in the gut every time. I tear up just in trying to write about it. I just love it so much. The text telling the story is so gentle. It sounds like a child’s perspective, but also leaves room for inferring what is unsaid. I love the way Keane handles talking about hard things, honestly, but not too much. The details aren’t needed so much as the feelings.

On the left page, the little girl lays on the floor next to her bed with one hand on the yellow box. Her dog peeks over top of her. On the right page, one circular vignette shows the little girl and dog peering at the window and waving to her grammy who is walking to their house. The second vignette shows the grammy sitting on a sofa with the mom while the dad sits nearby. The little girl is sitting on the floor in the background.

The illustrations are so lovely. It’s not often that I adore digital illustrations, but these were created with scanned handmade textures and then collaged digitally. They actually remind me a tiny bit of Ezra Jack Keats’ work. I love the patterns and texture in these illustrations; but I particularly love the faces. All the expressions are so delightful. The little girl is adorable, but her grandpa is my favorite. He reminds me of my own, which is probably partly why this book hits me so hard.

I was genuinely surprised by this book. The cover doesn’t give much away about the content coming. I’m so glad I picked it up. While I hate having the need for hard books like this about loss, I’m so grateful for beautiful books that are gentle and sweet in the telling and honest with the emotions. I hope you’ll check this one out too.

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