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Review: ‘The Cardboard Kingdom’

cardboard header“Give a kid a cardboard box….” You’ll often hear parents quip that their child was more interested in the box rather than the new toy. And I know when my groceries are delivered in cardboard boxes, my kids beg me to keep it around. It becomes a house, a bus, and anything their imagination allows. Chad Sell and his many collaborators use this concept to create a rich story about a group of neighborhood kids that allows their imagination and ours to soar.

Cardboard KingdomThe Cardboard Kingdom
By Chad Sell. Jay Fuller, David Demeo, Katie Schenkel, Manuel Betancourt, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Cloud Jacobs, Michael Cole, Barbara Perez Marquez.
Random House Kids Books
Grades 3 and up

I admit, my old, feeble mind had to go back and re-read parts of this book to “get it.” I know kids won’t have to. This is a book that totally encompasses a child’s mind as if the authors and artists have the Peter Pan syndrome.

The book is composed of short vignettes, each focusing on a different character but ultimately bringing together a whole neighborhood of kids who play the summer away, rich in their imagination. There is the boy who likes to dress up as the evil sorceress (and his mom who says it’s okay if it’s more than dress-up). The kid who desperately wants to fit in and find a friend but can’t find the right combination. Or the child who uses dress-up to help protect his mom from his estranged father. The book ends with the beginning of school, but on a hopeful note that the stories will continue.

This is a lovely book with bold artwork—with hints of a Saturday Morning Cartoon—and yet with so much more depth. The rich colors, the nuanced expressions on the various characters’ faces, and the minimal text will have readers flipping back and forth to search for more details that they will surely find. This book is a solid read.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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