In Pandora’s Lunchbox, by Stephen Sonneveld and Andrew Krzak, Pandora is a young girl with a “wonky eye” who is bullied, daily, by “Mean Children.” Pandora looks different; one eye is much larger than the other, thus making her an easy target for the bullies. When she opens her lunchbox one day Pandora discovers her sandwich has been replaced by a mythical person named Loki. Loki is escaping his own world after destroying it in an attempt at revenge. Pandora soon discovers that her lunchbox has powers beyond her wildest dreams and she begins to use them to escape the daily harassment from the bullies. But Pandora also uses the lunchbox powers for her own protection and things go from bad to worse.
When the “Mean Children” learn of the power of Pandora’s lunchbox they begin to demand things from her. Pandora, in her rising fear and anger at being bullied, tells the mean children that they should get what they deserve and unleashes monsters, from her lunchbox, that devour the bullies. After releasing her own anger Pandora must learn to deal with the consequences of exacting revenge. Pandora is almost giddy with glee at first to see her tormentors gobbled up, but the monsters eventually turn on her, forcing her to realize that she is no better than the bullies themselves.
Pandora’s Lunchbox is raw emotion. The story begins with an ugly truth that can't be denied: "Say what you will of children, they're downright jerks sometimes." This one statement packs a punch and makes us stop short. Upper elementary school children may well understand the concept of bullying and it is those kids that may benefit most from this story. Younger children may find some of the graphics scary and a few of the concepts may be difficult for them to grasp.
Unlike other books on the same subject, Sonneveld and Krzak open us up to the harsh reality of bullying. They illuminate the fear and anger that a victim feels and the power that a bully holds over them. Like other children similar to her, Pandora suffers bullying in silence until her emotions boil to the surface and force her to lash out and act just like a bully herself.
Although the message is clear, readers may be confused by the sudden trip to Loki’s realm where the story switches back and forth between Loki's problems and Pandora's. Pandora’s Lunchbox does, however, have an important message and Sonneveld and Krzak deliver it with painful, shocking honesty.
Pandora discovers a similarity between her life and Loki’s. Through his guidance and her own experience, Pandora learns a valuable lesson. How will Pandora react to her own act of violence? Will she make amends and bring the “Mean Children” back from the beyond? You’ll have to read Pandora’s Lunchbox by Stephen Sonneveld and Andrew Krzak to find out.
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