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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Charles Ghigna and Review of The Magic Box

Charles Ghigna - Father Goose® lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He is the award-winning author of more than 100 books for children and adults from Disney, Random House, Schiffer, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time, Inc., and other publishers, and more than 5,000 poems that appear in anthologies,

textbooks, newspapers, and magazines ranging from Harper’s to Highlights and from The New Yorker to Cricket magazines.

Author of Charles Ghigna signing a book.

He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, instructor of creative writing at Samford University, poetry editor of English Journal for the National Council of Teachers of English, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. Ghigna has read his poems at The Library of Congress, The John F. Kennedy Center, American Library in Paris, American School in Paris, the International Schools of South America, and at schools, conferences, libraries, and literary events throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Collage of 15 of Charles Ghigna's book covers.

Charles’ most recent books include The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry: 101 Favorite Poems for Children, illustrated by Sara Brezzi (2023), Little Hearts, illustrated by Jacqueline East (2022), Fetch, Cat. Fetch!, illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde (2022), Love is Everything, illustrated by Jacqueline East (2021), A Poem Is a Firefly, illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde (2021), Once Upon Another Time, written with Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal (2021), Stop, Drop, and Roll! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2021), Little Bee, Little Bee, Noisy as Can Be! (Father Goose: Animal Rhymes), illustrated by Ellen Stubbings (2021), Plan and Prepare! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2021), Little Seal, Little Seal, Noisy as Can Be! (Father Goose: Animal Rhymes), illustrated by Ellen Stubbings (2021), and Dial 911! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2021).

Collage of 13 titles of anthologies with Charles Ghigna's poems.

And he has poems in the following collections, Bless Our Pets, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Lita Judge (2024), Bless the Earth, edited by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Keum Jin Song (2024), School People edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Ellen Shi (2021), Construction People, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Ellen Shi (2020), Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (2019), A Bunch of Punctuation, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Serge Bloch (2018), One Minute till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You off to Sleep, edited by Kenn Nesbitt, illustrated by Christoph Niemann (2016).

For some additional information on Charles, see our earlier interview (here) and (here).

His newest picture book, The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites, was released on April 28th.

Welcome back Charles,

What helps you to be inspired? (perhaps a certain place, music, activity, etc.)

Great question, Maria! The simple answer is everything inspires me! By the time I climb to the top steps of my Treehouse, I’m already in a mindset ready to write. I turn on my computer, look out the window, sip my coffee, and let the morning bring me something new to write about. Sometimes ideas come from my external vision of the world, sometimes from my imagination and the make-believe.

You're so lucky, I would love to work in a treehouse! What was your inspiration for The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites?

Book Cover - Panda peeking into a glowing box.

I like boxes. A few years ago, I was given a little wooden box. It sits here on my desk in the Treehouse. One day I started imagining I was a child discovering it for the first time. What is it? What does it do? What’s inside? Is it magic? I started writing down my thoughts and within a few minutes I was on my way to writing the beginning of a new picture book!

Photo of author's own box, a bottle of wine, and a copy of the book.

Here’s a photo of the box that inspired the book. My publisher always sends me a bottle of wine with an advance copy of each new book. The box on the cover looks a little like mine.

Thanks for showing us your wooden box. How long did it take from the first draft to publication of The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites?

Because picture books require lots of beautiful pictures, it usually takes a year or so from final draft to publication. The writing for this book came quickly. As soon as my narrative of rhymes began, I wanted to pick the perfect narrator. That’s when Pandora the Panda popped into my head. It was fun letting her tell my story and using her magic box to show off so many different kinds of opposites to the children.

Such a great name! And I am sure a few adults will smile (or chuckle) over the name Pandora. What was the hardest or most challenging thing for you about writing The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites? Why? What was the most fun?

Nothing really hard about writing. I always have fun brainstorming my ideas until something catches on and tells me “this is it!” My brainstorming focus for The Magic Box was on all the different possibilities of showing the box in various positions and activities in scenarios that show off each of the opposites that came to mind.

When you first saw Jacqueline East’s illustrations in The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

Internal spread - panda happens upon a magic box on a trail by her bamboo.

Text © Charles Ghigna, 2024. Image © Jacqueline East, 2024.

Jackie and I have collaborated on several books over the years with a couple of different publishers who have allowed me to pick her for my books. She is one of my favorite illustrators. It’s always a treat to work with her. She lives in the country outside of Bristol, England, and like me, basks in the wonder and glory of the natural world. You said it best, her illustrations always “surprise, amaze, and delight me!” Every spread is a favorite!

That's so cool you got to choose her to illustrate your books! She is such an amazing illustrator. What's something you want your readers to know about The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites?

I would like them to know how much fun I had writing it, and how excited I was to see Jackie East bring our sweet Pandora the Panda to life with her exquisite illustrations! Now I can't wait to have young readers meet her too!

She is going to be adored! Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

Yes! Thanks for asking. I have several new projects in the works that I’m excited about: a novel in verse, a collection of poems for adults, a picture book about coin collecting, a picture book told through the eyes of an abandoned mother dog who waits at the pound for her forever home, a collection of love poems, a collection of light verse, a book for adults about women artists of the golden age, and volume II of The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry for Children.

Oh, my Goodness! Those all sound amazing and I am looking forward to hearing more about them. Last question, is there a plant or flower you love growing, or wish you could grow, in your yard or garden?

We have plants and flowers growing all over the house, inside and outside, along with a vegetable garden in the backyard. One of my wife’s favorite flowers are the New Dawn Roses. We may plant a few more of those this year.

Thank you, Charles, for sharing with us a bit about yourself and your newest picture book.

To find out more about Charles Ghigna, or to contact him:

Review of The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites

Looking for a creative, interesting, sweet, rhyming book for an early or reluctant reader? Have I got a great one for you! It's also one that younger kids will enjoy, too. It's a phenomenal book which gorgeously and magically explores opposites with the help of an adorable panda.

Book Cover - Panda peeking into a glowing box.

The Magic Box: A Book of Opposites

Author: Charles Ghigna

Illustrator: Jacqueline East

Publisher: Schiffer Kids (2024)

Ages: 4-8



Opposites, magic box, panda.


Emerging readers learn all about opposites with an adorable panda in this picture book from award-winning children’s author Charles Ghigna—Father Goose®—and illustrator Jacqueline East.

Pandora the panda goes on a journey of imagination and curiosity when she discovers a magic box. What is this box? What should she do with it?

Pick it UP?

Put it DOWN?

Join Pandora to explore the highs and lows, the ins and outs, and the many other opposites that are near, far, and everywhere you are! Basic words, short sentences, and lots of repetition make The Magic Box an ideal first reading book for emerging readers ages four to eight.

Opening Lines:

Pandora found a box

sitting on the ground.

What I LOVED about this book:

Could Pandora the panda be any more adorable? I love Jacqueline East's subtle touches of bamboo and cherry blossoms. This is such a warm, inviting, and enticing start to a picture book.

Internal spread - panda happens upon a magic box on a trail by her bamboo.

Text © Charles Ghigna, 2024. Image © Jacqueline East, 2024.

After discovering a box in her path, Pandora explores up, down, in, and out with the box, the "The magic box began to talk." The succinct, rhyming text, which uses only preschool and kindergarten words, is perfect for beginning readers. As the perfect accompaniment, the illustrations use subtle, soft pastel backgrounds which focus almost exclusively on Pandora, the Magic Box, a red lily, and a companion butterfly. I am so impressed with how they deftly capture so much action and emotion in these deceptively simple images. Pandora is a great foil for the box's antics. And I absolutely adore Pandora's little button, heart nose!

Internal spread - on left, the box starts talking to a surprised panda. On right, the panda stares and the box lid closes.

Text © Charles Ghigna, 2024. Image © Jacqueline East, 2024.

Occasional additions of companions or props added in the illustrations, such as skateboards (left and right), a car (fast), and a turtle (slow), help to feature or focus the reader on the opposites being explored. This is one of my favorites! A sweating box with sunglasses and a shivering box with a scarf. Jacqueline East's images are so masterful in their understated, yet ingenious exploration of the many opposites which a box can be. Opposites that a child can be, too.

Internal spread - on left, Pandora panda and the box sitting on towels at the beach. On the right the box with a scarf snuggled close to a snowman.

Text © Charles Ghigna, 2024. Image © Jacqueline East, 2024.

At one point, the magic box even transforms into a . . . well now, I think you need to get the book to find out the fun way Pandora and the box explore high and low! The sweet, fun ending encourages readers to look for opposites everywhere. This is an adorable, fun picture book kids will enjoy learning to read.


  • look around you, what opposites do you see? Can you find ones that are not in the book? Sweet/sour or awake/sleepy. Write a description, or draw an image, of how Pandora's magic box could explore your opposites.

Photo of an origami paper box and lid.
  • make and decorate your own paper magic box. What will you put into your box? Can you find opposites to put inside your box?

Photo of big and little paper roll panda bears.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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