out of the box

Orca Book Publishers (Spring 2011)

* selected for Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids and Teens 2012 and Vancouver Magazine‘s 7th Annual Summer Recommended Reading List; nominated for a 2011 Cybil Award; and shortlisted for a 2013 Rocky Mountain Book Award

Life goes smoothly for Ellie if she keeps her opinions to herself, gets good grades and tiptoes around her parents’ moods. So she’s more than happy to spend the summer with her aunt in another city. In the process of clearing out her aunt’s basement, she unearths an instrument from Argentina called a bandoneón, which fans the flames of her passion for tango music. When she goes searching for the bandoneón’s original owner, she discovers a story of political intrigue and family secrets that helps her start to figure out what’s gone wrong in her own family.

Fiction for ages 10+

ISBN: 9781554693283



“A very rich and engaging story. Short crisp sentences are packed with stunning realistic description and action that bring the people and places of southern Vancouver Island BC fully alive…Out of the Box is, without a doubt, another stunning indication of Mulder’s ability to weave a highly engaging and believable story, one that young readers will thrill to read, and one which has furthered her reputation as an important contributor to contemporary realistic Canadian children’s literature. Highly Recommended.”

- CM Magazine

“The novel addresses many topics—the thousands who “disappeared” under Argentina’s military dictatorship, tango music, homelessness, mental illness…Ellie’s struggle to show her mother love while creating healthy boundaries resonates, as does the glimpse into a dark period of Argentine history.”

- Booklist

“Never heavy-handed, Ellie’s frank narration explores her feelings of guilt, and her tale will appeal to middle-school readers. The author weaves in facts about the bandoneón, its use in tango music and its connection to the political unrest and attendant atrocities in Argentina between 1976 and 1983.”

- Kirkus Reviews

“Young readers will thrill at this read!”

- Vancouver Magazine’s 7th Annual Summer Reading List

“Ellie’s narration authentically conveys her gradual growth, the insecurities that surround her developing friendships, her role in a dysfunctional family, and the pleasure she takes in music. Adults and their relationships are portrayed credibly…A bit of Argentine history rounds out the believable plot, adding a bit of mystery and tension beyond Ellie’s immediate world.”

- School Library Journal

“There’s a lot going on in this text, but the simple first-person narration will make the story accessible to readers who want an interesting story simply presented.”

- Resource Links

“Adolescent readers will easily relate to Ellie’s attempts to establish her own identity separate from the expectations of her parents … Succinct and well-paced.”

- Book Notes

“A wonderfully written first-person, middle grade novel…Ellie’s care and love of family, feelings of guilt, and uncertainties will resonate with readers of this engaging novel.”

- Library Media Connection

“The first thing that struck me about Out of the Box was how much Michelle Mulder manages to accomplish in only 150 pages. She balances characters and subplots with the style and dexterity of a world-class juggler, and never does a ball hit the ground.”

- Ten Stories Up

“Michelle Mulder, author of After Peaches (Orca, 2009), skillfully introduces young readers to two issues rare in their fiction: mental health, usually addressed only peripherally, and the Argentinian “disappeared” people of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.”

- CanLit for LittleCanadians

“The novel provides an honest perspective on Ellie’s mother’s mental health issues, as well as a subtle, elegant nod to same-sex relationships…Ellie’s voice is strong and engaging, and the story is realistic in its lack of easy solutions…with a wrap-up that is as subtly complex as real life.”

- Quill & Quire

“[A] subtle work, blending an exploration of mental instability and a dysfunctional family relationship with a subplot involving an Argentinian immigrant … Mulder’s novel avoids easy solutions to the more serious problems of Ellie’s family.”

- Canadian Literature