The Boxes



Creepy creature tale will keep kids interested.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The adults in the story are either clueless or mean. Anne disobeys her Uncle.


The children are threatened, two people are injured by tendrils from the clock, several of the creatures are killed rather gruesomely.


A boyfriend and girlfriend meet secretly.


Not an issue.


Not an issue.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Aunt Ruth smokes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that an army of crab-like creatures scuttles through this creepy science-fiction tale that has the potential to rattle younger readers. The cliffhanger ending might prove disappointing, too.

What's the story?

In this modern Pandora story, Annie's mysterious Uncle Marco has left two boxes in her care, with specific instructions not to open them, put them near each other, or tell anyone about them. Soon, of course, she is driven by curiosity to open one, releasing an insectlike creature the size of a guinea pig, which multiplies rapidly, communicates telepathically, builds incessantly, worships the time-controlling device in the other box, and wants Anne to be its "nervous system."

As the creatures build a mysterious structure in the basement, unscrupulous developers discover Anne's secret and will stop at nothing to possess a device which can slow down time. But neither they nor Anne have understood how the device really works.

Is it any good?


Experienced readers will appreciate the author's talent at keeping things unpredictable. In fact, one group of 10 year olds, usually adept at anticipating the twists and turns of stories, came nowhere close in their efforts to predict where this was going and were thrilled when the author finally telegraphed the next step. With rapid pacing and an ending that demands a sequel, this should keep middle-schoolers turning the pages.

William Sleator has long been a sort of cult favorite among the 10 to 14 set, writing edgy chillers with surprising endings, such as Interstellar Pig and Singularity. This book, based on the Greek myth of Pandora, is one of his milder stories but is still exciting and creepy enough to keep most upper-elementary kids on the edges of their seats.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the original Greek myth that likely inspired this story: Pandora and her infamous box. How is Annie's plight similar to Pandora's? How is it different? Have you ever received strict instructions not to do something -- and did it anyway? What were the consequences of your actions?

Book details

Author:William Sleator
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Dutton Children's Books
Publication date:May 15, 2005
Number of pages:196
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10

This review of The Boxes was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byGolan Trevize October 28, 2011

Science Fiction Insights

Uses a theme from many science fiction books: that human friends of supernatural creatures are responsible for those creatures, and that they must be loyal to them despite their inhumanity.
What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written byblink98 September 10, 2010
loved it it kept me on my feet wondering how it was going to end but the middle was great but the end was a spuff.Every body of all ages would love this book if they like horrors.
What other families should know
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Teen, 17 years old Written byAction reader August 6, 2012


Needs to be made into a movie
What other families should know
Too much violence


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Special Needs Guide