posted in: Victoria Turnbull | 8

Pandora lives alone in a desolate land of broken things. She does her best to build a warm and wonderful home out of recycled objects, but she remains lonely.

Everything changes on the day a stranger in need of help arrives. Pandora isn’t sure she can provide what her visitor needs, but she responds with kindness and that is enough.

Her guest grows stronger and a friendship develops, but one day the visitor moves on, and Pandora is once again alone. A broken heart is hard to bear, but unbeknownst to Pandora, her friend left something behind which starts to grow, and soon Pandora’s once barren world is full of life, flowers and birdsong. Perhaps too, Pandora and her new friend will meet again?

Pandora by Victoria Turnbull (@vic_turnbull) is a moving, gentle, powerful and very beautiful book about so many things that are so relevant in our lives at the moment.

As metaphor for welcoming strangers and seeing what riches and beauty they can bring us and how they can make all our lives so much better, reading this book at this time in history makes me cry. But it also warms my heart because it encapsulates hope – hope that life can take surprising and wonderful turns when we least expect it.

Whilst the resonances an adult reader might hear seem utterly relevant to today’s world, the encouraging message of friendship and optimism alongside the simply charming, soft-hued illustrations will appeal hugely just as they are to children (and others) who don’t see the political parallels. The inventiveness of Pandora as she fashions a wonderfully cosy den out of discarded junk will capture many an imagination, and the excitement of watching the landscape transform as a little bit of everyday magic takes over will get readers looking forward to spring and seeing their own gardens and community spaces transform.

A story to tug at the heartstrings, to makes us feel better, Pandora is wonderful gift to us all. I’m sure I won’t be the only reader to be inspired by Turnbull’s pared-back, reflective text and graceful, detailed illustrations to nurture seeds of hope and to strive to make what ever bit of the world we live in just a little bit better, despite our despair.


Sometimes ideas for playing by the book come from highly unlikely places. Like this:

The boxes these items of clothing came in “spoke” to me – somehow I saw quite some potential in them as book art. And so with a lick of paint…

…some plastic trays from the recycling and a bit of cotton wool…

…underwear packaging was transformed into mini versions of Pandora’s wonderful garden, all parcelled up in a something resembling a book.

With each “book” I put a small packet of cress seeds and some instructions. A few of these have been sent out into the world today and if you’re one of the recipients, here’s what you can expect if you add just a little water:

Our very own garden with Pandora and her friend has made us rather happy!

Music which you might enjoy alongside this book includes:

  • Little Bird, Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell
  • Little Blue Bird by Grace Pettis
  • Pandora’s Box by Procol Harum (!)

  • Other activities which would go well with the book include:

  • Reading this interview with Victoria Turnbull where she talks about the inspiration behind Pandora
  • Pairing Pandora with David Lucas’s The Robot and the Bluebird, one of the first picture books that ever made me cry
  • Building a den out of whatever you can lay your hands on. Use the kitchen tables and chairs, bedsheets and duvets and make a cosy reading nook, the sort Pandora might like to come and join you in
  • Creating (and then exploding!) seed bombs – just like we did here

  • And before I go today, I’m so pleased I can share this with you:

    Illustration by Jose María Nieto. Reposted with permission. Please visit Jose’s site (you can click the image to visit his site)

    Thank you Donna for the original introduction to this cartoon.

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by its publisher, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

    8 Responses

    1. Claire Potter

      “welcoming strangers and seeing what riches and beauty they can bring us” and “life can take surprising and wonderful turns when we least expect it” – oh yes, yes! I think this message of ‘being open’ is an important one for children to learn and take through life.

      The story and illustrations look wonderful. And the cress garden in a bra box – genius!!!

      • Zoe

        I know, the bra box is crazy isn’t it. And I didn’t buy the bras just because the boxes were good – I honestly needed them anyway 😉

        But joking aside, yes, this is a story that needs to be shared in these days – a message I want my children to take to heart and hold inside them.
        Zoe recently posted..Pandora

    2. Rebecca Stonehill

      What a glorious book this looks – and LOVE your seed boxes. Yes, you are right, books like these are so important right now. I hope it spreads across every library in the land. I’m not sure if the story is at all the same, but it has a little echo of The Lion and the Bird about it.
      (ps I think you should send a surprise box back to the bra makers for an unexpected, lovely surprise ;-))
      Rebecca Stonehill recently posted..You HAVE to read this book!

      • Zoe

        Thanks Rebecca, yes, it would be fun to send the bra makers one of these. It will be interesting to see if I can even track down where they are made actually.
        Zoe recently posted..Pandora

      • Zoe

        The different levels things is very true – and an important part of what makes this book so powerful.
        Zoe recently posted..Pandora

    3. ReadItDaddy

      Loved this book and your write-up of it. It is one of those books that gets you ‘right there’ isn’t it! That is also such a GORGEOUS idea for a ‘make’ too!

      • Zoe

        Thanks ReadItDaddy. It was one of those ideas that I wasn’t quite sure if we could pull off. But the simple act of growing cress never fails to give instant gratification – the girls loved checking it each day to see how much it had grown.
        Zoe recently posted..Pandora

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